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Taiwan-New Zealand free trade talks to begin

2012/05/05 16:05:21

Taipei, May 5 (CNA) Taiwan and New Zealand have completed a joint feasibility study into a bilateral economic cooperation agreement (ECA) and will officially start free trade talks in the near future, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang said Saturday.

Besides the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China and continuing talks with Singapore on a free trade agreement, the government has been working hard to broaden Taiwan's international market, Shih told representatives from local small and medium-sized businesses at a meeting in Taipei.

Citing South Korea's moves to sign trade pacts with the European Union, the United States and China as examples of the pressure Taiwan faces, Shih said that building an environment of fair competition for Taiwanese businesses is one of the government's priorities.

"We are under very high pressure," he said, adding that the government cares about the issue and has been working hard to effect talks with major trade partners.

However, the minister did not reveal a specific timetable for the Taiwan-New Zealand talks.

New Zealand is the first country that is not a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to agree to explore the feasibility of an ECA with Taiwan.

The minister also noted that Taiwan will continue trade talks with China, as the 539 ECFA early harvest list items account for only 6 percent of the total number of items traded across the Taiwan Strait, while another 7,000 items have not been addressed.

As for the Taiwan-Singapore free trade agreement, Shih expressed optimism, describing the talks as "going well."

The government will continue to negotiate economic agreements with other trade partners in the future, Shih said.

(By James Lee)