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May 28, 2017

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Taiwan, NZ making great trade pact progress: envoy

TAIPEI -- Taiwan and New Zealand are making great progress in their negotiations over a bilateral economic cooperation agreement, according to New Zealand's envoy to Taiwan.

"We're making very good progress and it's going to be a good deal," Stephen Payton, director of the New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei, told CNA in an interview Wednesday.

Describing the agreement as an important development in bilateral ties, Payton said the Taiwan-New Zealand Economic Cooperation Agreement (ECA) will be "high-quality, comprehensive and a very good agreement for both sides."

"When it's concluded, people would be impressed," he said, but declined to reveal the substance of the negotiations until they are concluded and the agreement is signed and made public.

According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, "high-quality" means that both sides will open over 90 percent of their markets to each other, while "comprehensive" means it will cover not only products but also services and industrial cooperation.

In response to the Taiwanese government's hope of signing the deal by the end of June, Payton said he is happy to see positive results, but added that if it really happens so fast, the pact will be the quickest and most efficient one his country has ever forged.

Taiwan and New Zealand announced in October 2011 that they had agreed to conduct a joint feasibility study into an economic cooperation agreement, and the two sides started negotiations last May. Asked by how much bilateral trade volume will increase after the deal is inked, the director declined to give an estimate, saying only that "we can be hopeful there will be some positive outcomes."

"Trade agreements are not one-stop solutions to economic relationships," Payton noted, adding that there are lots of aspects of Taiwan-New Zealand relations that are not directly touched upon by the agreement, such as venture capital issues.

Asked if the ECA will help Taiwan in its efforts to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc in the long run, Payton said he does not see a direct relationship, although he added that "I certainly see various ways in which it will help Taiwan prepare itself for the possibility of joining the TPP in the future."

In addition to New Zealand, Taiwan is also negotiating another economic partnership agreement with Singapore.

The government said earlier this month that talks on the two agreements have entered their final phase and are expected to be completed as soon as within the first half of this year.

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