Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou said July 21 that his administration will fast-track trade negotiations with Taiwan’s partners as further liberalization is the only way to ensure sustainable development of the local economy.
“Taiwan’s exports for the first half of 2012 are less than satisfactory, a fact largely due to the unequal footing on which local firms are forced to compete with their rivals,” Ma said.
Ma made the remarks during a seminar in New Taipei City organized by the Ministry of Economic Affairs addressing the impact of trade liberalization on Taiwan’s development.
Attended by around 100 high-ranking representatives from the petrochemical, machinery, plastics and high-tech sectors, the event saw participants urge the government to level the playing field for Taiwan businesses in global markets.
The main concern of the firms is that their exports to Europe and the U.S. are being priced out of the market by those from South Korea, which now enjoy tariff-free status as a result of free trade agreements signed with the two economic powerhouses in July 2011 and March 2012, respectively.
In response, Ma vowed to speed up negotiations on economic cooperation agreements with New Zealand and Singapore, as well as redoubling efforts to finalize the proposed investment protection agreement with mainland China.
“Since New Zealand and Singapore are both negotiating partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, linking up with the countries is instrumental to Taiwan’s bid for TPP membership by 2020,” Ma added.
The TPP is a proposed trade agreement comprising negotiating partners Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the U.S. Canada has been invited to join the discussion, while Japan, Mexico and South Korea are also seeking to take part in the nascent pact.
Ma said in light of improving cross-strait relations, a protectionist mentality on the part of some local firms is now a major obstacle to Taiwan’s drive for further participation in regional integration.
Although the impact on Taiwan firms of South Korea’s FTAs with the EU and U.S. is expected to be significant, the government has measures in place to keep this to a minimum, MOEA Minister Shih Yen-shiang said.
“We have earmarked NT$95 billion (US$3.17 billion) between 2010 and 2019 to improve local firms’ business operations and competitiveness.”
Shih said the ministry will continue communicating with the private sector to map out measures addressing the concerns of Taiwan firms in this regard.