Taipei, May 17 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou said Thursday that he will focus on the trade liberalization of Taiwan over the next four years during his second term, as part of his efforts to improveTaiwan’s economic ties with the European Union (EU).
“One very important aspect is free trade, trade liberalization. Actually, we have been talking about free trade for almost 30 years, but we haven’t done enough,”Ma said at the annual Europe Day Dinner held by the European Chamber of Commerce Taipei (ECCT).
He said the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed between Taiwan and China in 2010 has opened many doors for Taiwan, including starting negotiations for economic cooperation agreements with Singapore and New Zealand.
Moreover, Taiwan signed an investment protection agreement with Japan last year, which Ma said was due to Japan wanting to take full advantage of the ECFA by manufacturing in Taiwan and exporting to China.
"The next step for us is to explore the possibility of having a trade or economic cooperation agreement with the European Union,”Ma noted.
“Trade liberalization will be a very important policy of my administration in the next four years,”he said. "We hope we could explore the feasibility further.”
The president hoped that Taiwan will be able to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in eight years, but the country has first to lay the foundation for joining such a free trade agreement.
“We are not ready yet, but we will be,”Ma said.
If Taiwan wants to enjoy the benefits of exporting to a certain country, Taiwan must also be ready to accept products from that country, he added.
Meanwhile, ECCT Chairman Chris James said that the European chamber has always enjoyed a productive and cooperative relationship with the Taiwan government and that he looked forward to another four years of open and productive dialogue.
James noted that there are a number of policy actions the Taiwan government could take to create the right conditions for a trade deal with the EU.
He told the president at the dinner that the ECCT has commissioned a follow-up to the chamber's 2008 study on the potential impact of an EU-Taiwan trade deal and that the results will be released later this year.
The previous study clearly demonstrated that an agreement of trade enhancement measures would take advantage of untapped potential to boost two-way trade, gross domestic product and create jobs in both the EU and Taiwan, James said.
To improve Taiwan’s competitiveness, James said that accepting EU standards and accrediting European test laboratories for all tests would remove technical barriers to trade and decrease costs for manufacturers and consumers.
(By Jeffrey Wu)