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Taiwan's new envoy to Singapore sees trade talks as priority

2012/04/24 16:18:04

Taipei, April 24 (CNA) Taiwan's new representative to Singapore, Hsieh Fadah, said Tuesday he hopes to speed up talks on a bilateral free trade deal with the city state and will make it a priority after he arrives there next month.

"I have confidence and will try to accomplish the mission," Hsieh told local media after being sworn into office at the Foreign Ministry.

Hsieh said it was "unrealistic," however, to give a timetable for negotiations leading to a free trade deal, which would be known formally as the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP).

"The team will try to seal the deal as soon as possible," he said, but cautioned that many factors could hold back the negotiating process.

The 62-year-old most recently was Taiwan's representative to Switzerland and served before that as Taiwan's vice economics minister. He is considered to be an experienced economic expert with a diplomatic background.

According to earlier media reports, Hsieh's familiarity with economic and trade affairs was one of the major factors in his being appointed to the job in Singapore.

Hsieh's experience will be useful in pushing a potential free trade pact with Singapore forward, Foreign Minister Timothy Yang said in a speech at the swearing-in ceremony.

Hsieh is expected to arrive in Singapore in early May.

Meanwhile, Shen Ssu-tsun, most recently a vice foreign minister, was also sworn in as Taiwan's new envoy to Japan.

"I am doing my best to learn Japanese now," Shen said in Japanese.

When news that Shen would be posted in Japan first emerged in late February, local media questioned his Japanese language ability.

But he vowed to communicate with the Japanese in their language after assuming the position and said at the time he would "deliver a public speech in Japanese in six months."

"I will keep my promise," he said Tuesday, adding that he has been taking Japanese lessons twice a week and will continue to do so before leaving Taiwan May 30.

(By Nancy Liu)