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Taiwan sees trade necessary for prosperity
Publication Date : 15-04-2012
President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday Taiwan could be transformed into an economic powerhouse if it succeeds in signing trade agreements with the United States, China and its other major neighbours.
Taiwan has struck an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China, but both sides have yet to complete negotiations on specific trade items.
Taiwan is also seeking to sign a trade and investment framework agreement (TIFA) with the United States.
Ma said if Taiwan can complete the ECFA talks, sign the TIFA, and reach trade agreements with New Zealand and Singapore, the nation could achieve an unprecedented place in the global economic topography.
Ma, speaking in The Gambia where he was paying an official visit, said Taiwan needs to beef up its free trade relations as its major neighbours and competitors have been actively doing so.
South Korea has signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States, posing a strong challenge to Taiwan's economic development, Ma said.
South Korea is likely to sign such pacts with Japan and China soon, Ma said.
The president said that no matter which party rules Taiwan, it would still have to deal with the same diplomatic and economic challenges.
He said Taiwan, in order to survive, must find a balanced development in its relations with the United States, Japan, China, the European Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Australia and New Zealand.
Taiwan has many interactions with these countries and must find ways to convince them of the needs to continue such ties, he said.
"For Taiwan, political and economic isolation would be an unbearable burden,” the president said.
Ma rejected criticism from opposition figures who described Taiwan's ties with its diplomatic allies as merely “better than nothing”.
Taiwan is recognised by 23 countries in the world, most of them being poor or small nations in Africa, South and Central America, and the Caribbean.
Taiwan has been helping these allies to improve their economies, infrastructures and other aspects.
Ma stressed that opposition figures may not like him, but they should not hurt Taiwan's friends.
"I was saddened when I heard (the opposition figures' remarks),” he said a press conference for Taiwan reporters accompanying him to the African trip. “Their attitude is very unhealthy.”
He noted that many of the diplomatic allies have often spoken out in support of Taiwan.