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Taiwan's new envoy to S. Korea to push for trade pact

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's new representative to South Korea said Tuesday as he was preparing to leave for his new post in the East Asian country that one of his top priorities is to push for an economic cooperation agreement.

Taiwan and South Korea have maintained close exchanges in economy and tourism, said Ting Joseph Shih, adding that the two sides are important partners for each other.

Shih, who served as deputy foreign minister before his new overseas assignment, made the remarks at a farewell reception in Taipei. He was scheduled to leave for South Korea later in the day.

South Korea is interested in expanding its presence in the Greater China market and is eyeing cooperation with Taiwan, he said.

Shih said he will make efforts to negotiate a bilateral economic cooperation agreement, adding that Taiwan is hoping to work together with South Korea as Taiwan seeks to join the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade blocs.

These are his main priorities, said Shih, who was posted in South Korea about 20 years ago. His previous overseas posts include stints in South Africa, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand and Belize.

The United States-led TPP is currently being negotiated by the U.S. and 11 other countries — Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico and Brunei. Taiwan and South Korea have expressed interest in joining.

Taiwan is also seeking to join the RCEP, which is being negotiated by all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, along with China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Tuesday's reception was also to welcome Shih's successor, Andrew Kao, who previously served as Taiwan's deputy representative to the U.S.

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