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Taiwan-Australia FTA urged as South Korea, Australia ink deal
Central News Agency
2014-04-08 09:56 PM
Taipei, April 8 (CNA) The Ministry of Economic Affairs said Tuesday that Taiwan should push for a free trade deal with Australia, noting that one signed between South Korea and Australia might impact Taiwanese manufacturers of petrochemical products and auto parts -- two of Taiwan's major exports to Australia.

South Korea and Australia signed a free trade agreement (FTA) earlier that day, which immediately removes tariffs on major South Korean exports, including auto parts, petrochemical products, household appliances, machinery, and iron and steel products. Ministry officials said the South Korea-Australia FTA might therefore impact local exports of petrochemical products and auto parts to Australia.

Australia currently has a 0.05-0.38 percent per liter tariff on petrochemical products and a 0-5 percent tariff on auto parts. Meanwhile, local economists expressed hope that Taiwan can speed up its signing of FTAs with other countries, as South Korea has outpaced the country in this regard.

While South Korea has signed FTAs with the top 10 global markets apart from China and Japan, Taiwan has only signed free trade deals with New Zealand and Singapore, said Sun Ming-te, a director of the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, a local think tank. However, Sun forecast that the South Korea-Australia deal will have only a limited impact on Taiwan, as Australia is a smaller market for Taiwan compared with the U.S. and China.

Lee Chun, a deputy director of the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, said Taiwan should step up its efforts to sign FTAs with other countries, as it will help Taiwan's bid to join negotiations on the proposed U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

While South Korea has signed free trade deals with 10 of the 12 countries negotiating the trade bloc, Taiwan has only signed with two -- New Zealand and Singapore -- Lee said.

Trade between Taiwan and Australia totaled US$11.6 billion in 2013, with the latter enjoying a US$4.1 billion trade surplus. Australia was Taiwan's 12th-largest trade partner last year.

South Korea has signed FTAs with 49 countries, nine of which have taken effect, covering 36.81 percent of all goods traded by South Korea.

In contrast, Taiwan has signed agreements with just eight countries, seven of which have gone into effect, covering 9.69 percent of all goods traded by Taiwan. (By Huang Chiao-wen, Yang Su-min and Scully Hsiao)

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