Taipei, May 18 (CNA) Vice Economics Minister Francis Liang said Friday that trade talks between Taiwan and New Zealand are expected to begin soon and should be completed by the end of 2013.
"We hope the trade talks can begin in no time and be completed as soon as possible," Liang said after the ministry announced that the the New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Wellington will begin negotiations on an economic cooperation agreement soon.
The two countries "have explored the feasibility of negotiating an economic cooperation agreement and have concluded that an economic cooperation agreement between the two sides would offer significant mutual benefit," the ministry said in a statement.
Asked if he expected the negotiations to be completed by the end of 2013, Liang said yes and added that his ministry would do its utmost to make it happen "faster than expected" if possible.
Describing the possible trade pact with New Zealand as "a critical milestone," Liang said it would allow Taiwan to gain benefits through the process of liberalization.
"Once the trade talks are completed, we will take a big step forward," he said, expecting such a deal to help Taiwan start trade talks or reach agreements with other countries more easily.
Taiwan has been negotiating a trade deal with Singapore since 2011, and, according to Liang, Taiwan's top trade negotiator, "progress in the Taiwan-Singapore trade talks has been good."
Since Taiwan inked the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China in June 2010, it has been looking to ink free trade agreements with other nations to counter rival South Korea's moves to sign free trade pacts with the United States and Europe, and possibly China and Japan in the future.
Taiwan's major exports to New Zealand are petroleum oils, stainless steel, bicycles and computers, which are subject to tariffs of 1 percent, 2.5 percent, 3.5-4.4 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively, according to the ministry.
Once the economic cooperation agreement is signed, all these and other products can enjoy lower tariffs or enter New Zealand duty free, Liang said.
Conversely, Taiwan's major imports from New Zealand, such as milk powder, beef and butter, will be allowed into the country exempt from duties as well.
(By James Lee)