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President says Taiwan strives to cooperate in regional trading blocs

TAIPEI--President Ma Ying-jeou said Wednesday that his government will ask Taiwan's representatives in two regional economic blocs to return home later this month to help prepare for negotiations on joining the two groups before July.

Upon their return to Taiwan on Feb. 17, the 28 diplomats will take part in a series of seminars and consultations to develop an action plan, Ma said at a Chinese New Year party for Taiwanese businessmen based in China.

He said the government is striving to improve the economy this year and is seeking to join the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed regional free trade agreement (FTA) currently being negotiated among 12 countries; and the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), an FTA developed among 16 countries.

Joining the two regional economic blocs is of great importance because Taiwan's trade volume with the 12 TPP countries accounts for 36 percent of the total, while its trade with the RCEP's 16 countries is about 57 percent of the total, Ma said.

“We will face a critical crisis of being marginalized” if Taiwan fails to join the two economic groups in the next few years when they become operational, Ma warned.

Therefore, the government will bring back its diplomatic corps stationed in the TPP's 12 member nations and the RCEP's 16 countries to help draw up a roadmap for Taiwan's participation in the two economic groups, Ma said.

“Some breakthroughs are expected when we mobilize all of the country's resources,” Ma said.

This is the type of effort that was seen about 20 years ago when Taiwan was seeking to join the World Trade Organization, he said.

Citing several economic experts, the president also predicted that Taiwan will achieve higher economic growth this year than last year.

At the gathering, Ma announced that he will present the Order of Brilliant Star medal to departing Straits Exchange Foundation Vice Chairman and Secretary-General Kao Koong-lian on Thursday for his contribution to the improvement of relations with China.

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