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ASTEP takes Taiwan a step closer to Singapore

An Economic Partnership Agreement (ECA) between Singapore and Republic of China (Taiwan) is expected to boost two-way trade and investment, promoting in the process larger benefits to the peoples of the two countries.

Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs Minister David Lin inked the ‘Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP) with Singapore’s Economic Affairs Minister Dr Chia-Juch Chang in Singapore on November 7, 2013, saying that it was one of the most significant trade pacts signed by his country thus far.

Extensive issues

The Agreement, which contains 17 Chapters, was the outcome of extensive discussions between the two countries initiated in May 2011.

Among the issues covered are trade in goods, rules of origin, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, e-commerce, trade in services, investment and other issues.

Mr Lin said that Singapore is Taiwan’s fifth largest trade partner and hence the Agreement is highly significant for his country.

“We enjoy close economic relations with Singapore, with our bilateral trade exceeding US$ 28.2 billion in 2012. This figure also makes Singapore our fourth largest export market, eighth largest source of imports and ninth largest source of foreign investment,” he said.

Mr Chang said that Taiwan is Singapore’s eighth largest trade partner, tenth largest export market and fifth largest source of imports.

Towards TPP

“Singapore is the first South Asian country to sign such an agreement with Taiwan. Singapore is a founding member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and a member of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP),” he said.

According to Mr Lin, an ECA with New Zealand (signed in Wellington on July 10, 2013) and Singapore should help pave the way for Taiwan to join the TPP and the RCEP.

“As members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Taiwan and Singapore have the right to conclude trade agreements under the global framework. The bilateral partnership agreement was signed following WTO standards and formally named ASTEP,” Mr Lin said.

Singapore has signed 20 regional or bilateral free trade agreements with 31 trade partners, and its trade system adheres closely to international standards.

Free Economy

In his National Day address on October 10 this year, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou highlighted his government’s national strategy.

“One of the goals of this strategy is to transform Taiwan into a ‘free economic island,’ an important aspect of which is to push for Taiwan’s comprehensive participation in regional economic integration.

ASTEP will strengthen Taiwan’s development toward an open trade regime, overall competitiveness, and ability to respond to competitors. It also demonstrates to the international community Taiwan’s commitment to trade and investment liberalisation, and will serve as an example for Taiwan’s negotiations with other countries with regard to economic cooperation agreements,” Mr Lin said.

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