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Taiwan-S'pore economic pact sealed after approval from Legislature secured

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- An economic cooperation pact signed with Singapore in November obtained the endorsement of Taiwan's Legislative Yuan Friday in a major step toward trade liberalization for Taiwan.

The Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP), signed Nov. 7, is the first free trade agreement sealed between Taiwan and a Southeast Asian country.

Executive Yuan spokeswoman Cheng Li-wun expressed her appreciation to the Legislature for its support for the agreement, which she described as an important milestone for Taiwan's efforts to join regional economic integration initiatives.

In a report to the Legislature, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said that over the next 15 years, the provisions of ASTEP will bring an estimated US$701 million to Taiwan's gross domestic product, increase local output value by NT$42.1 billion, and create 6,154 jobs.

Taiwan's total exports are also expected to increase by US$782 million and imports by US$719 million.

Under ASTEP, Singapore will remove all tariffs on goods from Taiwan, including on six types of alcoholic beverages not covered by Singapore's tariff reduction commitments under the World Trade Organization.

Taiwan, meanwhile, will immediately eliminate tariffs on 83 percent of Singaporean imports and gradually make 99.48 percent of products from the city-state tariff-free.

Taiwan will maintain import tariffs on 40 agricultural products, including rice, garlic, dried mushrooms, red beans, pineapples, mangoes, coconuts and unshelled peanuts.

Because Singapore is not an agriculture-based economy, the agreement will not have an impact on Taiwan's agriculture sector, the economics ministry said.

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