Taipei, Nov. 7 (CNA) The newly signed Taiwan-Singapore economic cooperation agreement could help advance efforts to achieve a similar deal between Taiwan and the European Union, the European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan (ECCT) said Thursday.
"This is very good news for us," said Freddie Hoeglund, chief executive officer of the ECCT, in response to reporters' questions at a press briefing to release the chamber's annual position papers.
"We feel that any trade deal that Taiwan gets is very positive for investments and is good for the Taiwan economy," he said.
After three years of negotiations, the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP) was signed in Singapore earlier in the day.
Under the agreement, tariffs will be reduced in three phases over 15 years, with import tax on 83 percent of Singaporean products to Taiwan removed in the first stage. After the third phase, 99.48 percent of Singaporean goods will enjoy zero tariffs, with the exclusion of some 40 mostly agricultural products.
Hoeglund said the ECCT has been very supportive of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and Taiwan, and the ASTEP will possibly increase the chances of such an FTA "taking steps forward and becoming a reality."
The remarks came at a time when the EU-Taiwan trade and investment are both declining.
Bilateral EU-Taiwan trade in goods declined by an annual 5.2 percent in 2012, while Taiwan's exports to the EU in the first six months of 2013 dropped 8.3 percent from the same period of last year, according to the ECCT 2014 Position Papers.
By contrast, the EU's exports to the rest of the world rose by an annual 8.2 percent in 2012 and its imports from the rest of the world increased by 4 percent.
Notable examples in Asia were the EU's bilateral trade with South Korea, which grew by 10.2 percent annually in 2012, while the EU's trade with Hong Kong rose by 5.7 percent, the report said.
Moreover, European investment in Taiwan in the first six months of this year was only US$350 million, a decline of 49 percent from the same period of last year, according to the report.
"We believe this slowdown is a clear indication that Taiwan needs to do more to attract investment," ECCT Chairman Giuseppe Izzo said at the press briefing.
He urged the Taiwan government to build more balanced and progressive regulations, adopt international standards, pursue a trade deal with the EU and work much harder to put Taiwan on a path to sustainable economic growth.
"Taiwan faces fierce competition from its regional competitors," Izzo said. "For this reason, the government has to work hard to make every aspect of living and doing business in Taiwan better than its regional rivals."
(By Jeffrey Wu)ENDITEM /pc