Parties urged to be cautious in trade talks with Taiwan

08:02, August 06, 2010      

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Beijing urged Singapore on Thursday to prudently handle its planned talks with Taiwan on the feasibility of signing an economic agreement.

"Our stance on economic and trade activities between foreign countries and Taiwan is consistent and clear," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.

"We hope relevant countries continue adhering to the one-China policy and to prudently handle related issues."

Jiang's comment came after Taiwan said on Thursday it will hold talks with Singapore later this year on reaching a trade pact, as it tries to build new economic ties with the outside world after a landmark deal with the mainland.

The decision to begin negotiations with Singapore, a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), comes little more than a month after Taiwan signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with the mainland in late June.

The agreement, which ended tariffs on hundreds of products traded across the Straits, is expected to boost bilateral trade, which already totals $110 billion a year, with some $80 billion in goods flowing to the mainland and $30 billion to Taiwan.

"Singapore plays a key role in the foreign trade of ASEAN countries," Taiwan's "economic ministry" said in a statement. "The future trade agreement with Singapore can lay an important basis for Taiwan to further its trade and economic cooperation with ASEAN countries."

Singapore and Taiwan will "explore the feasibility of an economic cooperation agreement", the two sides said in a joint statement.

Singapore is the first country to start initial discussions on a trade deal with Taiwan following the conclusion of the ECFA, but it could push other countries to seek similar pacts with export-reliant Taiwan, whose economy has struggled during the global slowdown.

"We believe Singapore will adhere to the one-China policy, and properly handle its economic and trade relations with Taiwan accordingly," said a spokesperson for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office.

"We also hope Taiwan will safeguard the current common political foundation formed across the Straits and safeguard the peaceful development of cross-Straits ties."

Wu Nengyuan, director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Fujian Academy of Social Sciences, said it is very important for Taiwan and the mainland to hold negotiations and discuss "proper and reasonable arrangements" for the island's participation in activities involving international organizations.

"Taiwan should adhere to the one-China policy, or it will hurt the good momentum of development of cross-Straits relations," he said.

The joint statement from Taiwan and Singapore said Taiwan had kept close ties with Singapore and was grateful to Singapore in helping bring about the "Wang-Koo meeting" in 1993.

In April 1993, Wang Daohan, then President of Chinese mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), and Koo Chen-fu, then chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), held a historic meeting in Singapore.

It was the first public meeting between leaders of the two organizations that were authorized by the mainland and Taiwan to handle cross-Straits affairs.

Taiwan and Singapore have long mulled the possibility of inking a free trade deal. Talks began after then Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2000.

But Chen's insistence on negotiating a deal under the name "Taiwan" or "Republic of China" derailed the talks in 2003, the Singapore-based Straits Times reported.

By Xie Yu, China Daily


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