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Ma pledges to push for TPP, RCEP bids

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou stressed yesterday his administration's resolve to push for Taiwan's bids to join two regional economic blocs during a seminar in Taipei for diplomats.

He also expressed confidence that Taiwan has the competitive edge needed to survive the fierce global economic competition for participation in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Ma made the pledge during an opening ceremony for a series of seminars to educate Taiwanese diplomats on the nation's bids to join TPP and RCEP held at the Foreign Ministry's Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs in downtown Taipei.

During his address, the president said regional economic integration is the first step toward global trade liberalization.

  Taiwan, a country that largely depends on international trade, may lose its competitive edge if it cannot participate in the two trade blocs, Ma said.

Ma noted that joining the two economic blocs is crucial for Taiwan's survival because TPP countries account for around 34.4 percent of Taiwan's trade, while the RCEP countries represent 57 percent.

“We hope the seminar will give the representatives a better understanding of the government's resolve and the nation's roadmap to push for membership in the two blocs,” Ma said.

The president yesterday also dismissed the local agricultural sector's concerns that it may not survive the nation's participation in the two economic blocs.

Taking the example of Taiwan's participation in the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2002, Ma said opening markets to international competition ultimately made the local agricultural sector stronger.

“Taiwan's economy is not that fragile and lacking in a competitive edge. Just give us the opportunity and we will be able to demonstrate to the world our strong suit,” he said.

Swift Passage of Cross-strait Agreement

The president yesterday also touched on follow-up agreements to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement between Taiwan and China, including the Cross-strait Services Trade Agreement signed in June 2013, which is still awaiting ratification by lawmakers.

Ma called on ruling lawmakers to ensure smooth passage of the agreement in the Legislative Yuan to show other countries the nation's determination in pushing for trade liberalization.

The four-day event that kicked off yesterday will run until Thursday.

The diplomats are expected to spend two and a half days attending the series of seminars at the Foreign Ministry's Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs in downtown Taipei, the ministry said.

Following the seminars, the envoys will spend the rest of their time traveling to central Taichung city, southern Kaohsiung City and Pingtung County, to tour sites that are designated as the nation's free trade economic zones, according to the ministry.

The sites the envoys will visit include Kaohsiung Harbor and the Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park.

The envoys will also meet with local business representatives to understand their needs as the nation is gearing up to join the TPP and RCEP.

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