Nations put trade talks on hold over stalled pact: gov’t

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By John Liu ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — With the implementation delay of the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement, many countries have placed a hold on their current trade negotiations with Taiwan, said Economic Minister Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) yesterday. Chang was invited by the Legislature’s Finance and Economics Committees to report on the latest development of the service pact.

In the wake of domestic turmoil caused by the service pact controversy, many of Taiwan’s trade partners now hesitate to sign trade agreements with Taiwan, and some have “paused” bilateral negotiations with Taiwan this year, Chang said. The “anti-service pact” movement has exerted great impact on Taiwan, Chang said, adding that it affects Taiwan’s trade relations with mainland China, and delayed the signing of the next-in-line goods trade agreement with China. In addition, it affects Taiwan’s chance to be more “internationalized,” as the global community is now watching closely how Taiwan deals with its trade issues with China, Chang said. When speaking with the press yesterday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he believes the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement is a “good trade” and it would be a pity for Taiwan not to sign it. In Chang’s opinion, Lee made the remark based on Singapore’s experience. Like Taiwan, Singapore is a local small economy, which can only survive by opening up, Chang said, adding that Singapore has been actively inking free trade agreements (FTA) with other countries, for it understands the important roles they play in a nation’s development.

Taiwan May Lag Behind South Korea and Australia recently inked an FTA, and with that, South Korea has signed FTAs with a total of 49 nations, Chang said. It is a very disturbing development, for many of South Korea’s exported products and services overlap with Taiwan’s. Taiwan’s exported products will now be put in a disadvantaged position in countries that have signed FTAs with South Korea, which obtains tariff favors. The Vice Economic Vice Minister Duh Tyzz-jiun (杜紫軍) concurred with Chang’s remark, saying that many countries have indicated they would not conduct trade negotiations with Taiwan until it has established trade agreements with mainland China. According to Duh, the service trade pact debacle has scared away at least one country that was in talks with Taiwan to ink a trade agreement this year. Duh would not name the country, but said it would like to see Taiwan sign the service trade pact with China.

Opening up Telecommunications Sector Not a Danger Chang also tried to allay legislators’ concerns over the opening of Taiwan’s telecommunications services to China, promising that removing barriers on their entry to the sector will not pose a security threat. At a separate meeting of the Legislature’s Education and Culture Committee, Science Minister Chang San-cheng (張善政) defended the decision to open parts of Taiwan’s type-II telecommunications business by arguing it posed relatively little risk compared to the security threats most people deal with daily.