Other countries balk at talks with Taiwan after protests: minister - Focus Taiwan

Other countries balk at talks with Taiwan after protests: minister

Taipei, April 9 (CNA) Taiwan's trade partners have adopted a "wait-and-see attitude" toward trade talks with Taiwan because of the fierce protests against Taipei's trade-in-services pact with Beijing, Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch said Wednesday, without providing specifics.

Many of the bilateral trade negotiations scheduled for this year have been put on hold, Chang told a joint meeting of financial and economic committees at the Legislative Yuan.

Chang confirmed the concerns of some legislators that protesters who have occupied the main chamber of the Legislature to oppose the ratification of Taiwan's pact with China could have a far-reaching adverse effect on the country's economic development.

Taiwan's foot-dragging in approving the trade-in-services pact with Beijing has called into question Taipei's follow-up talks with Beijing on merchandise trade and dampened other countries' enthusiasm in holding similar talks with Taiwan, Chang said.

The economics minister did not identify any of the trade partners holding back on talks with Taiwan, however, nor did he provide specifics on whether the reluctance has been ongoing or surfaced only recently after the students occupied the Legislature on March 18.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday called the pact with China a "good deal" and said it would be a pity if Taiwan did not sign it, advice Taiwan should heed, Chang said, because Singapore knows the important role trade pacts play in national development.

Noting that South Korea concluded a free trade agreement with Australia on Tuesday, the minister said it was Seoul's 49th trade pact with other countries thanks to its persistent efforts to pursue such pacts with its trade partners.

The trend poses a big threat to Taiwan because South Korea is one of Taiwan's major trade rivals, and these pacts will give its products a competitive advantage over Taiwan's in those countries, Chang said.

(By Tai Ya-chen and Maubo Chang)ENDITEM/ls

(Click here for a timeline of major developments since the Legislature occupation started March 18.)

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