US-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement

Tracking news and information about the proposed US-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

Monday, October 27, 2003

Rely on the WTO or push for FTAs?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Analysis: Taiwan to lose out in FTA race

Monday, October 20, 2003

Taiwan will keep pushing FTA

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Failure at Cancun prompts flurry of trade deals in Asia

Financial Times

The failure of last month's World Trade Organisation meeting in Cancun may have halted the Doha global trade round. But it has galvanised efforts to press ahead with regional and bilateral trade deals - above all in Asia. Since Cancun, a flurry of initiatives has been launched in the region.

Last week leaders of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) announced plans to create by 2020 an "Asian economic community" with freer internal trade, investment and labour mobility. They also agreed to fresh trade talks with India and Japan - after embracing last year China's surprise proposal for a free trade area with Asean.

Singapore and Thailand, meanwhile, are working on their own bilateral deal because they want to liberalise trade faster than their fellow Asean members.

Asian governments, furthermore, have tried to revive long-term plans for a broad east Asian trade group of 2bn people including Asean, Japan, China and South Korea.

"The envisioned east Asian free trade area will be the world's biggest market," Zhao Boying, a professor at the Chinese's Communist party's central committee school, said at a conference this week.

The shift towards bilateral and regional trading arrangements in Asia will be one of the main topics at next week's Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit in Bangkok, which will bring Asian leaders together with their American colleagues.

The US, many investors believe, has been distracted by the crisis in Iraq and has failed to nurture its trading ties with Asia, whereas China has been actively courting its neighbours. It has, for example, cut by 30 per cent its tariffs on fresh fruit and vegetables from Thailand, which now supplies a third of China's imports.

"Apec I think is so mushy, it doesn't implement," says Ernest Bower, president of the US-Asean Business Council. "East Asia has an interest to move ahead of Apec."

Many of Asia's trade deals have long been in the pipeline, and fascination with the subject has grown since the 1997 Asian financial crisis spurred a quest for stronger regional co-operation. The trend has been fuelled by disenchantment with the WTO after its disastrous 1999 Seattle meeting and by the increasing economic weight of China.

But observers say Cancun has quickened the pace by further dimming hopes for rapid global trade liberalisation. "Post-Cancun, there's a real sense of an uncertain future," says Mr Bower, who believes this anxiety made Singapore and Thailand even more eager to pursue their own trade deal within Asean.

Just as important is the aggressive recent US pursuit of bilateral deals worldwide, which has created a "bandwagon" effect in Asia. Washington already has an agreement with Singapore and is negotiating one with Australia. It is expected to initiate talks with Thailand, and possibly the Philippines, at Apec in Bangkok.

Until the late 1990s, east Asia staunchly supported the multilateral trade system. Many were shocked when Singapore and Japan embraced bilateralism several years ago. But most have since followed suit. Even Malaysia, one of the last hold-outs, is now in talks with Japan and India.

Yet it is still uncertain where all the activity is leading, or how much it will actually liberalise trade. Mari Pangestu, a leading Indonesian economist, says many trade initiatives in the region are more about politics than economics and reflect "me-too" attitudes.

Singapore has been able to clinch deals because it has few trade barriers anyway, whereas most Asian countries doggedly protect sensitive sectors such as agriculture and services.

Peter Drysdale, an Asia specialist at Australian National University, thinks such constraints will limit Japan to economically "trivial" agreements that remove few trade barriers, thus calling into question the notion of a genuine east Asian free trade zone.

There is also concern - in Asia and elsewhere - that the increasingly complicated "spaghetti" of bilateral and regional deals could impede economic integration by creating discriminatory arrangements that distort trade and investment flows. Already businesses and governments of smaller economies are bemoaning the burden of multiple "rules of origin" requirements and a plethora of national standards.

Even Singapore, which is pessimistic about the Doha round and which struck bilateral deals because of its frustration with the slow pace of regional and multilateral talks, seems to be having second thoughts about the current trend.

"The danger is that by small increments we will carve the world into blocs," a senior Singaporean official said recently. "That kind of world will not be advantageous to smaller and weaker countries."

Singapore, he added, was therefore "first and foremost" enthusiastic about multilateral trade, while Apec remained important because it joined the two sides of the Pacific.

Doubts are therefore growing - even as Asia embarks on an orgy of regional trade negotiations - about whether regionalism or bilateralism can produce benefits any quicker than talks in the WTO.

"Trade policy in the region is in a mess," says Professor Drysdale. "Unless the Doha round gets back on track, it will get worse."

Monday, October 13, 2003

IPR Protection is in the Interests of Taiwan's Development: Siew

Pirated goods scuttle trade talks

U.S. still saying no to FTA with Taiwan, cites IPR issue

Friday, October 03, 2003

Top economic advisor to solve trade problems with U.S.

Top Economic Adviser To Leave For U.S. To Drum Up Support For FTA