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Government eyeing Vietnam, Indonesia for trade agreements

TAIPEI -- Taiwan is eyeing Vietnam and Indonesia as potential free trade agreement (FTA) partners after announcing earlier this week that it had agreed with Singapore to explore the feasibility of a free trade deal, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said yesterday.

The MOEA said the government is eyeing many potential FTA targets, with the signing of FTAs with Vietnam and Indonesia as the top priorities.

After Taiwan and China signed an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) in June, Taiwan has begun preparations to sign other bilateral trade agreements with major trading partners to knock down trade barriers, cut tariffs and expand commercial exchanges.

The Presidential Office said earlier this week that President Ma Ying-jeou was pleased with the work of the Cabinet in opening talks with Singapore after the signing of the ECFA.

A trade deal with Singapore is expected to serve as a foundation from which Taiwan can build closer commercial ties with other trading partners, the Presidential Office said.

Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang said Taiwan is pursuing a “high quality” trade agreement with Singapore, and indicated that the agreement is expected to “accomplish its goal in one step.”

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party said, however, that even if Taiwan and Singapore sign a trade deal, the island is unlikely to enjoy substantial benefits since about 99 percent of its top 100 products sold to the city state are given tariff-free treatment, citing trade figures in 2006.

The MOEA countered by arguing that negotiations with Singapore will focus on the service sector, and that the two countries are also expected to talk about investment, agricultural cooperation and joint efforts to penetrate the regional market.

The ministry said that as long as the trade deal with Singapore is done, other trading partners could be more willing to ink similar trade agreements with Taiwan.

In 2009, Singapore accounted for 4.23 percent of Taiwan's total exports, while Vietnam took 2.94 percent and Indonesia made up 1.58 percent.

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