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Friday, November 12, 2010

In the news

From today's Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ, it's "Taiwan seizes chance to make regional statement":

"Taiwan has thrown its support behind a proposed Pacific Rim free-trade zone and considers APEC a key forum to achieve this, according to a senior T'aipei 台北 official...APEC is one of the few international gatherings where Taiwan has representation."

For those who don't know, Yokohama 横浜 will play host this weekend to the annual gathering of leaders from the Asia-Pacific Cooperation forum, and the Japan Times is running a brief interview with Cho Shih-chao, director general of the Bureau of Foreign Trade under the Taiwanese Ministry of Economic Affairs 中華民國經濟部:

"'Due to political realities, APEC and the WTO (World Trade Organization) are two of the most international organizations we attend," Cho said...'Unfortunately, we are not able to attend the Group of 20 meetings or the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), even though we'd like to. As a result, we treasure our participation in APEC.'...Cho said Taiwan has actively undertaken steps to slash tariffs and open its service sector in an effort to reach APEC's ultimate goal of trade and investment liberalization. It also launched the APEC Digital Opportunity Center project in 2004 to enhance the information and communications technology of member economies in an attempt 'to transform digital divide into digital opportunity.'" (whatever that means)

One focus of this year's APEC gathering is the U.S.-proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, the negotiations for which the Japanese government is considering joining, while weighing the opposition from the country's influential agricultural sector. The TPP has also caused some confusion in Taiwan, with "Chinese Taipei" 中華台北 APEC representative, Lien Chan 連戰, claiming that Taiwan has been invited to join, while a trade official said only that the country is "interested" in the initiative (read here). In any event, Cho stated that...

"Bilateral economic partnership agreements and (Free Trade Agreements) are 'not a good way to develop trade facilitation and liberalization,'...adding a free-trade accord covering the entire Asia-Pacific region would bolster trade by easing import-export restrictions. Taiwan, however, is concerned that it may be left on the sidelines of the APEC summit due to political pressure from China. 'Legally speaking, as a member of APEC and the WTO, we have the right to enter into any free-trade agreements,' Cho said. 'But practically, because of the global political situation, we may have a little bit of difficulty in doing so.'"

Being a government official, it should come as no surprise that Cho toes the party line, noting that...:

"...China-Taiwan relations have improved significantly in recent years, especially since Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九 took office in 2008. Under Ma's leadership, Taiwan has taken a number of steps to strengthen ties with Beijing, including direct commercial flights between the two rivals. In June, the two governments signed the historic Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement 海峽兩岸經濟合作架構協議, which obliges China to cut import tariffs on about 540 goods and services worth an estimated $14 billion (¥1.15 trillion/NT422 billion). On the flip side, the agreement requires Taiwan to slash tariffs on around 270 imported products worth $3 billion (¥247 billion/NT90.4 billion). '(The ECFA) was a very positive development because it (established) a predictable and systematic way of doing business with China,' Cho said. 'The ECFA provides a really good opportunity for mutual benefits...Our president adopted the so-called pro-China policy and he sees China as an opportunity instead of a risk...'"

In the interview, Cho also chose to ignore the recent clashes over the Senkaku Islands 尖閣諸島, and Taiwan's tacit siding of China in the dispute. Instead, he mimics his boss in noting that:'

"'We have a solid relationship with Japan at all different levels — economic and trade levels, as well as people going back and forth...We'll only get better and better in future.'"

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