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Taiwan, Singapore expected to finalize FTA talks by year-end

2012/09/12 18:43:39

Taipei, Sept. 12 (CNA) Talks between Taiwan and Singapore on a proposed economic partnership agreement are expected to be finalized by the end of the year, former Vice President Lien Chan said Wednesday.

Lien said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told him on the sidelines of the recent 2012 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' meeting in Russia that the negotiations have been progressing without any glitches.

Lee thinks the talks can be wrapped up by the end of the year, Lien said at a press conference, after his return from the annual APEC meeting that was held Sept. 8-9 in Vladivostok.

Singapore and Taiwan have been in talks since 2010 on a trade pact that is being called the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP).

Lien, who attended the APEC meeting as President Ma Ying-jeou's proxy, also told reporters that Taiwan is expected to join the second round of negotiations on new memberships in the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP), of which the United States is a strong advocate.

U.S. officials said in Vladivostok that Mexico and Canada are preparing to participate in the multilateral free trade agreement, and that Japan will join at an appropriate time, according to Lien.

After that, there should be a second wave of new membership talks, in which Taiwan would be able to participate, he said, citing the U.S. officials.

Meanwhile, Lien said he raised the issue of Taiwan's ongoing efforts to promote bilateral and multilateral free trade links and to participate in international organizations, in an hour-long discussion with China's President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the meeting.

The former vice president said he mentioned that Taiwan is working to sign free trade agreements with Singapore, New Zealand and other countries, and asked for China's assistance.

"We hope mainland China can give its blessings and assistance" on those issues, Lien said.

Specifically, Lien said, he asked Hu to give serious consideration to Taiwan's efforts to join the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), in view of the fact that it concerns everyone in the world, not just a certain group of people.

In response, Hu said he will weigh the matter seriously, according to Lien.

Lien said he and Hu did not discuss the upcoming leadership changes in China.

Earlier in the day, President Ma Ying-jeou lauded Lien's efforts at the APEC leaders' meeting, saying it was an achievement to obtain a goodwill response from Hu on Taiwan's ICAO bid.

"The door has been opened" after three years of efforts by Taiwan to gain access to the ICAO, Ma said in meeting with Lien and other members of the Taiwan delegation to the APEC summit.

Lien also obtained a commitment from the U.S. to send a senior official to Taiwan to prepare for the resumption of the long-stalled talks under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, Ma noted.

Lien carried out all the tasks Taiwan assigned to him, which was a remarkable performance and a great contribution, Ma said.

(By Sherry Tang and Elizabeth Hsu)
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