Taiwan and Singapore officials said Thursday the sides will later this year discuss signing an economic cooperation agreement, a possible breakthrough for Taipei in its pursuit of better foreign trade relations.
The agreement to open negotiations between Taipei and Singapore follows Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s months-long efforts to improve relations with Beijing, including the signing of a major tariff-reduction pact in June. Ma has long said the China pact will lead to bilateral trade deals with other countries in the region.
But a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry appeared to warn Singapore off the deal.
Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. Beijing still claims Taiwan as part of its territory and opposes most of Taipei’s efforts to develop foreign ties.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Presidential Spokesman Lo Chih-chiang said Ma is upbeat about the Singapore negotiations, and believes a pact with the Southeast Asian city-state could help Taiwan “forge closer economic ties with some other trade partners.”
Comments from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu suggested that Beijing would oppose any Singapore trade deal with Taiwan that appeared to recognize the island’s sovereignty.
“Our stance on the economic and trade activities between foreign countries and Taiwan is consistent and clear,” the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Jiang as saying. “We hope relevant country to continue adhering to the one-China policy and to prudently handle related issues.”
Singapore and Taiwan do not have official ties. The joint statement came from Taiwan and Singapore’s representative offices in each other’s territories.