Vol. 4 Num 61 Sat. July 26, 2003  

Taiwan proposes free trade pact with ASEAN

Taiwan has told the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that it wants talks on a free trade agreement, a move likely to be blocked by China which is in the middle of its own negotiations.

"It would like to propose that ASEAN take the next logical step, to agree to form an ASEAN-Taiwan FTA," Steve Ruey-Long Chen, Taiwan's Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs, told a business forum held in the Malaysian capital.

The move by the island state of 23 million people follows last year's agreement between China and ASEAN to start talks on creating the world's largest free-trade bloc.

The Association of South East Asian Nations groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Taiwan's efforts to join other global trade groups have been blocked by China, which considers the island part of its territory and fears such membership would imply Taiwan sovereignty.

Mirzan Mahathir, Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute of Malaysia president, said the process of trying to start an ASEAN trade deal with Taiwan would not be easy.

"I guess it will go through the normal turbulence that Taiwan and China usually face in these matters," he told Reuters.