Taipei, May 16 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou said Wednesday that Taiwan should not be absent from a potential new free trade bloc in Northeast Asia, noting that it could "play an important and constructive role" in the region.
The president was referring to an agreement by Japan, China and South Korea to start official negotiations on a trilateral free trade pact within this year, which he said "has put pressure to Taiwan."
Speaking at a meeting with Sumio Tarui, Japan's top representative to Taiwan, at the Presidential Office, Ma said relations between Taiwan and Japan are now the best they have been over the past four decades and that bilateral trade continues to thrive.
Under such circumstances, Ma expressed the hope that Japan will seriously and positively consider the signing of a free trade agreement with Taiwan.
Ma cited an aviation golden triangle in Northeast Asia as an example of such cooperation, noting that when Tokyo (Haneda International Airport), Seoul (Gimpo International Airport) and Shanghai (Hongqiao Airport) began negotiating the triangle, Taipei was not included.
But he believed Taiwan should have the chance to be part of the arrangement and made it part of his presidential campaign in 2007.
"After four years of effort, we now have direct flights with Haneda, Hongqiao and Gimpo airports," Ma said.
He also expressed the hope of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement within eight years, but noted that "the necessary conditions do not exist yet and we have to work to create them."
The conditions he referred to include completing follow-up negotiations under the cross-Taiwan Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement that was signed in 2010, expediting talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States, and making progress on free trade talks with Japan and South Korea.
"If such conditions can be achieved, then the forces opposing our application to join the trade bloc will be greatly reduced," Ma said.
The president said such a development would be positive for the whole region, noting that Taiwan's bilateral trade with China, Japan and South Korea totaled US$160 billion, US$70 billion and US$10 billion, respectively, last year.
It would provide a major boost to Taiwan's economy and also help secure regional prosperity and security, he said.
(By Lee Shu-hua and Lilian Wu)