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June 27, 2017

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Taipei's envoy to Washington stresses trade pacts' importance

WASHINGTON--Shen Lyushun, the new R.O.C. representative to the United States, said Friday that the signing of free trade agreements (FTAs) is critical to Taiwan's competitive edge and its economic future.

In his first news briefing after he took over the job from predecessor King Pu-tsung, Shen said that as South Korea, one of the major competitors to Taiwan in the global market, has signed an FTA with the European Union, Taiwan is losing its competitive edge.

Shen said it is possible that Taiwan will lose to South Korea in the global competition even in selling instant noodles in the EU market as Seoul enjoys a tariff free status, but Taipei has to pay a 6.4 percent tax. The South Korea-EU FTA took effect in July 2011.

The Taiwan representative made the remarks when asked to comment on the strong opposition against a trade-in-services agreement signed by Taiwan and China in June 2013. The stiff resistance prompted a political standoff following the occupation of the main chamber of the Legislative Yuan by protesting students skeptical of the trade pact.

Student demonstrators ended the 24-day occupation at the Legislative Yuan Thursday after Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng pledged to pass a new law to allow the public's monitoring of negotiations with China before reviewing the trade-in-services agreement.

Shen said local opponents resorted to populism to strengthen their stance against the trade pact with China, asking the government to backtrack from its promises in the trade talks with Beijing.

The representative said the way these protestors dealt with the trade agreement was not democratic.

Shen said he is afraid that Taiwan's chaos related to the trade agreement with China will lead U.S. negotiators with Taiwan on trade issues to worry about whether Taiwan will be able to keep its promises in talks once local opposition emerges.

However, Shen said Washington has never had doubt about Taipei's determination to push for economic liberalization. In the eighth round of talks between Taiwan and the United States under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) held on April 4, the U.S. praised Taiwan's determination in relaxing trade restrictions.

Meanwhile, Shen said high ranking U.S. government officials have reassured Washington's commitment to Taipei under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which was enacted in 1979, as part of its overall stepped up focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

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