Mar 27, 2009

Taiwan: Obstructed by China

Active ImageWTO membership should qualify Taiwan for FTAs with ASEAN.



Below is an article published by: Taiwan News

China should cease to obstruct Taiwan's efforts to sign free trade agreements (FTAs) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN) members, because Taiwan is eligible to do so under the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO), a foreign ministry official said Thursday [26 March 2009].

As a WTO member, Taiwan should be allowed to make trade arrangements, including FTAs, with any of the organization's members, said Victor Yu, director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, in a media briefing.

At present, Taiwan hopes to "establish some kind of interaction with the ASEAN that both would find acceptable" under the WTO framework, such as involving market access, tariff concessions and a customs union, Yu said.

Yu stressed, however, that Taiwan's attempts to reach any deals with the ASEAN, which has already signed FTAs or comprehensive economic cooperation frameworks with most major economies in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, South Korea, China, Australia and New Zealand, are barred by China, as they have always been in the past.

Taiwan also confronts the same obstacles posed by Beijing even in negotiations with individual ASEAN states, Yu said.

It would be an "irony" if Taiwan's industries, especially those vital to the country’s economic development, such as the high-tech sector, fail to continue to thrive in the regional economic integration as a result of this unfair trade practice, Yu said.

He expressed hope that China would demonstrate goodwill on the matter because economic arrangements have nothing to do with ASEAN countries recognizing Taiwan as a sovereign state. Beijing is adamantly against Taiwan being treated as a country, as it sees the island as one of its provinces.

This would also be a good chance for China to act on its claims of "caring about the benefits of Taiwanese people," Yu said He emphasized that Taiwan will nonetheless continue its FTA negotiations with the ASEAN members, but he declined to disclose the current processes.

Yu noted that over the years, relations between Taiwan and the ASEAN have steadily drawn closer as a result of increasingly frequent exchanges not only in trade, but also in tourism, culture, foreign labor and marriages between people from Taiwan and the Southeast Asian countries, Yu said.