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Ma talks trade with ex-US secretary of commerce

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday met former U.S. Secretary of Commerce John E. Bryce and said that his ultimate goal as president is to get Taiwan to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Ma said that since he took office five years ago, the administration has worked toward expanding Taiwan's trade relations, and that Taiwan signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with mainland China three years ago as well as an investment pact with Japan two years ago.

The president added that economic cooperation talks with Singapore and New Zealand will draw to a conclusion in the near future.

The government has taken a multilateral approach and has endeavored to ink economic cooperation agreements as well as free trade agreements with Taiwan's major trade partners, Ma said, adding that “the ultimate goal is to join the TPP and RCEP. These two major agreements will allow Taiwan to fully take part in the trend of regional economic integration.”

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said two years ago in Hawaii that U.S.-Taiwan relations are strong, and that Taiwan is a partner of the U.S. in economic and security terms, Ma said.

U.S.-Taiwan trade last year reached US$63.2 billion, the president said, adding that the U.S. is Taiwan's third largest trade partner.

Taiwan is the third largest buyer of U.S. agricultural produce as well as the 11th largest and the 16th largest trade partner and export market, respectively, of the U.S., Ma said.

Last year, Taiwan was accepted into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, whereas this year, talks between Taiwan and the U.S. have also begun under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, signifying a strengthening of ties, the president said.

Nuclear Energy Debate

With regard to the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant controversy, Ma said that renewable energy is currently unable to fully substitute nuclear energy, and that the fate of the power plant will be debated in a public forum and ultimately put to a vote.

Ma said that Bryson served 18 years as president of utilities firm Edison International, and that he has a deep understanding of energy policies.

Bryson also co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Association in 1970, Ma said, lauding the former U.S. secretary of commerce for his efforts toward promoting greater environmental awareness.

Taiwan lacks natural resources and relies extensively on imports, the president said, adding that in addition to reducing carbon emissions, Taiwan has also put considerable effort toward developing renewable energy.

Ma said that two years after he became president, the Legislature passed the Renewable Energy Development Act, and that in Taiwan, the installed capacity of wind and solar energy has increased 23 times since before he took office.

The progress of thermal and tidal energy development, however, has been limited, the president said.

Over the past six months, there has been a lot of debate on whether or not to continue construction on Taiwan's Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, Ma said, adding that the authorities decided in the end to hold a referendum to resolve the issue.

In terms of stability and efficiency, however, there is still a long way to go before renewable energy can fully substitute nuclear energy, the president stressed.

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