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Taiwan behind S. Korea in China deal: Duh

TAIPEI -- The progress of signing a trade-in-goods agreement across the Taiwan Strait has fallen far behind that of the negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA) between China and South Korea, Economics Minister Duh Tyzz-jiun (杜紫軍) said yesterday.

Whether China and South Korea reach agreements on the content of the FTA or officially sign the agreement, “we won't be able to catch up,” Duh said.

As China and South Korea are stepping up their FTA negotiations, there is growing concern in the ministry and among Taiwanese businesses that Taiwan will continue to lose ground to South Korea — its main trade competitor — in key export areas once the FTA takes effect.

The FTA will mean that about 25 percent of Taiwan's exports of industrial products, totaling US$38.6 billion, will be affected, according to the ministry's estimates. Taiwanese companies could lose orders worth between US$3.2 billion and US$8.5 billion to their South Korean competitors, the ministry said.

Once such an FTA is signed, China and South Korean will decide when tariff concessions will take effect, and once the tax benefits are in place, there will be an impact on Taiwanese businesses, Duh said.

In light of this, Taiwan must step up negotiations on signing the trade-in-goods agreement with China, he added.

Taiwan needs to complete the negotiations and have the agreement signed before Chinese companies shift their orders to South Korean companies, Duh said, warning that otherwise, “it will be a disaster for Taiwan's industry.”

The two sides of the strait were scheduled to resume talks on the trade-in-goods agreement by the end of August, but the talks have been postponed at the request of China, which has cited incomplete preparations. The talks will not now be resumed until mid September at the earliest, Duh said.

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