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Following his re-election earlier this month, President Ma Ying-jeou has confirmed his wish to see Taiwan as a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) within ten years, and to make Kaohsiung, in the south of Taiwan, into a free trade zone.
The Taiwanese government had hoped that the conclusion of the economic cooperation framework agreement (EFCA) between Taiwan and China, which went into effect in September, 2010, would end its isolation and lead to talks on trade treaties with other Asian countries. However, progress on that front has been slow, and opposition from China to a spreading of Taiwan’s free trade agreements (FTAs) has been apparent.
However, the aggressive FTA strategy being taken by South Korea, Taiwan's main trade competitor, has been causing concern in Taiwan, and the government is looking at the effects that South Korea’s FTAs with the European Union and the United States could have on Taiwan’s economy.
While it was recently disclosed that a joint study would begin on the feasibility of an economic cooperation agreement between New Zealand and Taiwan, and that many other trade treaties are under discussion with Taiwan’s other trading partners, the only other such talks that have been confirmed are with Singapore, although feasibility studies are also said to be progressing with India and Indonesia.
With New Zealand and Singapore being two of the original signatories of the TPP, the extension of which is currently being negotiated under the leadership of the US, President Ma looks on the talks with those countries as forerunners of its final ambition of joining that treaty, and other regional FTAs in the future, despite China’s opposition.
The President also believes that it would help its future cause of joining the TPP if it establishes free trade zones in Taiwan. In that regard, he has confirmed that the facilities in the area around the free trade harbour of Kaohsiung will be upgraded, and that, if the experiment is successful, further zones could be created around Taichung, Taoyuan and Keelung.
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