Taipei, May 14 (CNA) The scheduled launch of negotiations on a free-trade pact among China, Japan and South Korea has opened up a battle pitting Taiwan against its major trade rival South Korea in trade talks with China, Council for Economic Planning and Development Minister Yiin Chii-ming said Monday.
Leaders of the three countries agreed in Beijing Sunday to start talks this year on a trilateral free-trade accord, Yiin said, and Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming and South Korea Trade Minister Park Tae-ho expressed the hope early this month that the talks would be concluded within two years.
Yiin said the agreement sets up the stage for a negotiating contest, with Taiwan and South Korea racing to see which country can be the first to complete free trade talks with China.
Citing ongoing talks on the remaining aspects of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement Taiwan and China signed in 2010, Yiin said that if South Korea concludes its talks with China first or gets better trade terms, that would put Taiwan at a disadvantage.
As of March this year, South Korea has ratified free trade deals with the United States, the European Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, India, and Chile, among others, while Taiwan does not have trade deals with any of these countries or groups.
Taiwan's trade with these countries accounted for 39.5 percent of its total external trade, Yiin said.
Taiwan has only concluded deals with five diplomatic allies in the Central and Latin Americas, with exports to these five accounting for a mere 0.13 percent of Taiwan's total exports, Yiin added.
(By Constant Wu and Scully Hsiao)