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Singapore trade pact could clear Legislature soon

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The trade pact signed between Taiwan and Singapore recently is expected to clear the Legislature this session, as both the ruling and major opposition parties have expressed their support for the agreement.

The ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said ahead of Monday's Legislature review that they support the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP).

The ASTEP could play a significant role in Taiwan's economic development, KMT chief whip Lin Hung-chih said, expressing optimism that both parties could reach a consensus.

The pact signed Nov. 7 is expected to add US$701 million to Taiwan's gross domestic product (GDP) over the next 15 years, boosting local output value by NT$42.1 billion (US$1.43 billion) and creating 6,154 jobs, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Singapore is Taiwan's fifth-largest trade partner, fourth-largest export market and eighth-largest source of imports. In 2012, bilateral trade amounted to US$28.2 billion, accounting for 5 percent of Taiwan's total external trade.

DPP caucus leader Wu Ping-jui said the party has decided to support the accord as foreign trade is the engine of Taiwan's economic growth.

The current legislative session was originally scheduled to end in late December, but is expected to be extended to January.

Lin also urged the Executive Yuan to submit amendments on the Customs Import Tariff and Shipping Act so lawmakers could expedite the review process.

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