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Foreign chambers of commerce urge Taiwan to expand trade partnerships

2012/06/25 20:29:14

Taipei, June 25 (CNA) The heads of foreign chambers of commerce in Taipei urged Taiwan Monday to build up bilateral relationships with more trade partners to shift its dependence away from China.

Bill Wiseman, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (AmCham), said that most multinational enterprises in Taiwan are eyeing the business opportunities afforded by the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed between Taiwan and China in 2010.

But the bilateral deal, which provides tariff cuts or exemptions and market access privileges for a variety of goods and services, does not seem to be enough for Taiwan to attract more foreign investment, Wiseman said.

"I think Taiwan should become much more integrated as a base of operations of services and manufacturing," he said at a local forum.

"I do think that investing a lot in bilateral relations really makes sense for Taiwan," he added.

Given that Taiwan has initiated free trade talks with Singapore and New Zealand, Wiseman said he expects Taiwan to seek similar agreements with other countries in the future, based on the improved cross-Taiwan Strait relations.

Michel Darrieus, treasurer of the European Chamber of Commerce Taipei (ECCT), suggested on the same occasion that Taiwan should set a clear goal for economic integration and free trade in the long term.

Although he described the ECFA as "positive," Darrieus said Taiwan should not value its trade with China only.

"Taiwan has to do what is possible to extend free trade agreements with other countries," Darrieus said.

For example, he added, although there is a long way to go before Taiwan can sign a free trade agreement with the European Union, it is a necessary move and the right direction for Taiwan at a time when other countries such as South Korea are becoming more aggressive in expanding their free trade arrangements.

Kyota Kishimoto, chairman of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), echoed the sentiment that Taiwan should shift its trade dependence away from China in the face of the competition from South Korea.

Following the signing of the ECFA, Japanese firms have become more eager to form partnerships with Taiwanese companies to reduce the operational risks of breaking into the China market, he said.

However, the government should also create a friendlier environment for foreign investment by other countries in case Taiwan-China relations worsen at some point in the future, Kishimoto said.

(By Jeffrey Wu)