Taiwan will be pushing for bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member states once it has inked the Taiwan-China Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), Taiwanese president Ma Ying Jeou said.
Other countries being eyed by Taiwan to ink FTAs include South Korea, Japan, the European Union and the US.
“We will give priority to these key trading partners as a way of boosting foreign trade for Taiwan, after concluding the Taiwan-China ECFA in June,” he told a press briefing at the Presidential Office Building located in the Zhongzheng district here yesterday.
The press conference, attended by almost 100 local and foreign media representatives, was to mark the second anniversary of Ma’s inauguration (May 20), and the half-way mark of his first term in office.
Ma described the cross-straits economic framework agreement with China as positive, although the Opposition has rejected the proposed move by saying that the accord will harm Taiwan’s sovereignity as well as traditional sectors of its economy.
Stating that “it is okay to have diplomatic isolation,” Ma however cautioned that it would be dangerous for Taiwan to have economic isolation.
“Innovation,” he added, “is the key to competitiveness and we must rejoin the world economy.”
He said Taiwan should improve cross-strait ties to achieve reconciliation, cooperation and peace as Taipei needs a peaceful environment to develop its economy.
“My goal is to create the time for people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, who are both the offspring of the Yellow Emperor (the legendary ancestor of all Chinese) and guided by the wisdom of the Chinese nationality, to find the solution to the cross-strait problems,” he added.
“These problems cannot be solved overnight, and there is no urgency to solve them immediately,” he said. “They can only be solved step by step.”
Taiwan, which has been seen as a wayward province by the government in Beijing, spent a few of the past 115 years under the control of a government in China.
It is currently governed by Ma’s Nationalist Party, which fled China to Taiwan after the Communist takeover in 1949.
Although the US and most other nations have not formally recognised Taiwan, the island has developed into an economic powerhouse and bustling two-party democracy under the protection of US-supplied arms and an implicit US guarantee to help if the island is attacked.
Ma said that while he did not “exclude the possibility” of meeting the head of China’s government in the future, the focus should be on maintaining the progress being made on trade, travel and government-to-government cooperation.
On Taiwan’s future development, Ma said priority will be given to boosting the economy and trade development, restructuring industries, creating job opportunities in the “green” sector, increasing government efficiency, establishing social welfare benefits and implementing a carbon emission-reduction policy.