Legislature urged to pass service trade pact with China
CNATAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Legislative Yuan was urged Saturday to speed up its review process and pass a controversial services trade agreement with China so that Taiwan's competitiveness can be boosted at a time when many foreign investors are eyeing the huge mainland market.
October 6, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
Yeh Ming-feng, an advisor to the Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce, said it is particularly urgent for lawmakers to greenlight the agreement on trade in services Taiwan and China signed in June now that China has launched a free trade zone in Shanghai.
The Chinese authorities launched the Shanghai experimental free trade zone in late September to allow Chinese and foreign companies to operate with fewer government regulations in a wide range of businesses in the financial, shipping, commerce, trade, and cultural sectors.
China also plans to allow more flexibility in the Chinese yuan's fluctuations in the Shanghai free trade zone, a step perceived as China's willingness to narrow its gap with the global economy.
Yeh said China had been cautious about its economic openness to the outside world and now it wants to use the Shanghai free trade zone to test the waters to show its ambitions of joining the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc.
As Shanghai is the financial hub in China and serves as a gateway to the prosperous Yangtz River Delta, Yeh said, the experimental free trade zone will likely pose threats to its competitors in the region.
Under such a highly competitive market, Yeh said Taiwan has to accelerate its pace to sign free trade agreements with its major trading partners to lower trade barriers and eventually boost Taiwan's global competitive edge.
He said, in particular, Taiwan has to pass the service trade agreement with China as soon as possible because the trade pact is considered the most significant bilateral economic accord since the two sides signed the landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in 2010.
However, the cross strait service trade pact is still pending in parliament, where a political standoff between the ruling Kuomintang and the opposition parties have polarized the Legislative Yuan's operations.
Yeh said the service trade agreement is expected to allow Taiwan to take the lead to enter the China market, while many foreign investors want to use the Shanghai free trade zone as a springboard to the mainland market.
Chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China Chang Pen-tsao agreed. He said that Taiwan cannot afford to lag behind other countries when foreign investors are drooling over the huge China market.
Chang said the top priority for Taiwan now is to pass the service trade agreement to explore the China market as the Shanghai free trade zone aims to turn China into a service oriented economy from a manufacturing-focused one.
Chang also called for the local authorities to accelerate an initiative to set up its own free trade zone to grasp a higher share in the global market.