Taiwan seeking free-trade agreement with ASEAN
Taiwan hopes to sign a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the Association of Southeast Asia (ASEAN) so that the island will not be marginalized, a newspaper reported Tuesday, dpa reported.
Taiwan, which has been seeking to sign a free-trade deal with ASEAN for several years, made the FTA a more urgent priority after ASEAN and its three dialogue partners - Japan, China and South Korea - announced plans to launch an 80-billion-US-dollar currency reserve swap fund to guard against financial crisis in Asia, the Liberty Times said.
The 10-member ASEAN and its three partners, the so-called ASEAN Plus Three, made the announcement Sunday in Madrid, Spain, on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank.
Taiwan is an ADB member but is excluded from the emergency crisis fund.
Taiwan's Economics Minister Steve Chen regretted Taipei's exclusion from the emergency fund but said that Taiwan will seek to sign a deal with ASEAN.
"ASEAN's integration will follow the model of the European Union, but at this stage ASEAN Plus Three's focus is on trade and not yet on financial and monetary issues," the paper quoted Chen as saying.
"ASEAN has become an important trading partner of Taiwan, and Taiwanese investment is the second largest after investment by China. So Taiwan will continue the dialogue to seek to sign FTA with ASEAN."
Huang Chih-peng, director of the Bureau of Foreign Trade, said that Taiwan has a better chance to sign an FTA with ASEAN after pro-China President-elect Ma Ying-jeou has been sworn in on May 20.
"We have to wait 'til Ma is inaugurated and Taiwan-China ties have been stable. Then Taiwan can seek to sign FTA with the United States. If the US signs FTA with Taiwan, it will prompt other countries to also sign FTA with Taiwan," he said.
Taiwan is seeking to sign FTA with the US, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and ASEAN, but these countries and ASEAN have refused, apparently for fear of angering China, as they have diplomatic ties with Beijing.
Taiwan is recognized by only 23 countries. China, which sees Taiwan as its breakaway province, bars Taiwan from joining international events that are open to sovereign states.