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The Republic of China (Taiwan) and the Republic of Singapore sign an economic partnership agreement
Date: 2014/04/30    Data Source: Department of NGO International Affairs
2013/11/07

NO.297

The Republic of China (Taiwan) and the Republic of Singapore signed an economic partnership agreement in Singapore at 9:30 am on November 7, 2013. This agreement is highly significant as Singapore is Taiwan’s 5th largest trade partner and the 1st Southeast Asian country to enter such an agreement with Taiwan. Singapore, a founding member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is also a member of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Taiwan’s signing of an economic cooperation agreement with New Zealand and Singapore should help pave the way for Taiwan to join the TPP and the RCEP, two regional economic and trade agreements.

Taiwanand Singapore enjoy close economic relations, with bilateral trade reaching US$28.2 billion in 2012, making the latter Taiwan’s 5th largest trade partner, 4th largest export market, 8th largest source of imports, and 9th largest source of foreign direct investment. Likewise, Taiwan is Singapore’s 8th largest trade partner, 10th largest export market, and 5th largest source of imports.

The two sides, being members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), have the right to conclude trade agreements under the framework of the WTO. The bilateral partnership agreement was signed following WTO standards and formally named the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP).

Consisting of 17 chapters, ASTEP is a high-quality, high-standard, and comprehensive economic partnership agreement that covers a wide range of areas, with chapters on trade in goods, rules of origin, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, e-commerce, trade in services, investment, competition policy, government procurement, intellectual property, resolution of disputes, and systemic regime. Taiwan and Singapore formally launched consultations on ASTEP in May 2011 and concluded them in May 2013, with the two sides carefully reviewing the legal text before signing the agreement.

Singaporehas signed 20 regional or bilateral free trade agreements with 31 trade partners, and its trade system adheres closely to international standards. Indeed, ASTEP will help bring Taiwan in line with international practices. In his National Day address on October 10 this year, President Ma Ying-jeou highlighted the ROC government’s forward-looking and pragmatic national strategy. One of the goals of this strategy is to transform Taiwan into a “free economic island,” an important aspect of which is to push for Taiwan’s comprehensive participation in regional economic integration. The signing of ASTEP will strengthen Taiwan’s development toward an open trade regime, overall competitiveness, and ability to respond to competitors. It also demonstrates to the international community Taiwan’s commitment to trade and investment liberalization, and will serve as an example for Taiwan’s negotiations with other countries with regard to economic cooperation agreements. Furthermore, ASTEP will boost momentum for Taiwan’s efforts to join the TPP and RCEP and participate in regional economic integration, and will move Taiwan closer to reaching its goal of becoming a “free economic island.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to work closely together with other relevant government agencies, so as to actively promote Taiwan’s participation in regional economic integration. By adhering to the principle of “making multiple contacts and concluding agreements one by one,” Taiwan aims to sign free trade agreements or economic cooperation agreements with its main trade partners. The ultimate goal is to play a meaningful role in regional economic integration, so as to boost Taiwan’s economic and trade development, strengthen its industries, and enhance the people’s welfare. (E)