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Taiwan, Singapore prepare to forge economic partnership (update)

2010/12/15 22:17:29

Taipei, Dec. 15 (CNA) Talks will begin early next year betweenTaiwan and Singapore on an economic partnership agreement that bothcountries have determined will bring "positive and conspicuous"benefits, Taiwan's representative in that Southeast Asian countrysaid Wednesday.

In a telephone interview with the CNA, Vanessa Shih said bothparties have completed their respective feasibility studies onsigning such an agreement and have concluded that it would offersignificant mutual benefits.

However, she admitted that such an agreement could negativelyaffect some sectors of Taiwan's economy.

"Our negotiators will make sure the negative effects will beminimized and benefits maximized, as they work hard to expandbusiness opportunities for Taiwan," she stressed.

Many industries in the two countries are complementary, sharingan industrial chain relationship marked by up-stream and down-streamcooperation that eventually will create a win-win situation for bothsides, Shih said.

Less than two months after Taiwan signed a historic EconomicCooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China, Taiwan andSingapore jointly announced on Aug. 5 they were interested innegotiating a similar deal.

Following that announcement, delegations from the Singapore TradeOffice (STO) in Taipei and the Taipei Representative Office (TRO) inSingapore met for the first time in Singapore December 9-10.

Formal negotiations under the title "Agreement between Singaporeand the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen andMatsu on Economic Partnership" (ASTEP) are scheduled to begin earlynext year, the two offices said in a joint press release Wednesday.

Both sides agreed that priority areas may be accorded expeditedtreatment in the negotiations, the joint statement added.

Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang welcomed the latestdevelopment, saying ASTEP is a good name, as partnership has become atrend.

Calling the economic partnership agreement a kind of free tradeagreement, the minister said ASTEP also means "An important STEP" forTaiwan, which is seeking to forge more regional economic cooperationpacts in an effort to integrate into the regional economy.

Both Taiwan and Singapore are members of the World TradeOrganization (WTO) . Two-way trade between them in 2009 totaledUS$13.4 billion, as Singapore was Taiwan's 6th largest tradingpartner after China, Japan, the United States, Hong Kong and Korea.

Singapore is also the sixth largest source of foreign directinvestment (FDI) in Taiwan, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said.

(By Kuo Wu-huan and S.C. Chang)
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