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Taiwan needs to step up trade talks: Ma

President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that Taiwan aims to join the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP) to improve its competitiveness.

Ma stressed that the opening of the local market to ractopamine-containing U.S. beef is not meant to please the United States, but for Taiwan's future.

He said Taiwan has entered into free trade pacts with too few countries, lagging far behind its neighbors of South Korea and Singapore.

The lifting of the ractopamine ban is expected to facilitate Taipei's talks with Washington over the signing of a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), the president said.

“We hope to join the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership in the future so as to improve Taiwan's competitiveness,” Ma said during a visit to the southern agricultural county of Yunlin.

Political commentators have noted that the ractopamine ban was a major hurdle to the resumption of TIFA talks between Taiwan and the United States.

The Legislature last week lifted the ban, but the U.S. government has yet to commit itself to proceeding with the trade talks.

The president visited a fish farm internationally known for its colorful carp, a paper mill for tourists, a precision machinery factory that makes triggers for air bags, and a temple, yesterday.

Ma noted that the fish farm, which has won almost 100 international awards, has set an example for other local industries.

He said local industries must head toward niche markets by rolling out high-end, high added-value products to improve its competitiveness and make inroads into the international market.

During his visit to the paper mill, the president said that he was very impressed by the furniture made with corrugated paper.

He said the government supports both high-tech industries and conventional ones. The government gives particular support to cultural creative industries, he added.

He urged the local industries to identify their own competitiveness, make changes, and make efforts toward understanding international demand and create their own brands.

He said the government's incentive programs for cultural creative industries seek to help all sectors, including agriculture and services, to expand their markets.

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