20131220 Taiwan eyeing trade pacts: minister
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Taiwan eyeing trade pacts: minister

CRUCIAL DEALS: The minister said both the TPP and RCEP are of importance, as the TPP represents about 35% of total trade, while the RCEP accounts for more than 50%

By Shih Hsiu-chuan / Staff reporter

Taiwan is aiming to be considered a second-round candidate for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and to accede to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in the next two years, Council for Economic Planning and Development Minister Kuan Chung-ming (ºÞ¤¤¶{) said yesterday.

Along the path to economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region, next year and 2015, when the US-initiated TPP and the China-led RCEP are expected to hammer out deals, will be crucial to Taiwan as the nation risks being marginalized if it is left out of the agreements, Kuan said.

¡§I have a strong sense of urgency¡¨ to avert the danger of Taiwan becoming marginalized, Kuan told reporters after the weekly Cabinet meeting at which he presented a revised version of the ¡§free economic pilot zones¡¨ project.

Under the revised proposal, education has been added to the list of sectors to be showcased in the project, along with the initial targeted industries, which include smart logistics, international medical care, value-added agriculture, and wealth and asset management financial services.

The proposal states that domestic or foreign entities would be able to set up universities or colleges of an experimental nature without being subject to the current rules on enrollment, curriculum, management, recruitment and finance.

The revised proposal also expands the scope of international medical care by including international medical institutions, research and development centers focusing on bio-tech products, medicine, rehabilitation, health preservation and other services, in addition to health checks, cosmetic medicine and medical treatment.

In the logistics sector, the plan is to promote faster and freer flows of goods and to increase the number of value-added goods using top logistics services, enabled by an innovative customs administration and information clouds.

Agro-products from China which are currently restricted from being imported into the country would be allowed to be processed in the pilot zones, with Taiwanese agricultural technology being utilized to manufacture value-added products and to market them.

Offshore banking units and offshore securities units would be allowed to provide various kinds of financial products and services, which are not currently approved, to non-residents and domestic professional investors. The proposal also offers tax incentives to stimulate competition.

Foreign businesses which store or manufacture goods in the pilot zones would have their tariffs waived for all products sold abroad and by up to 10 percent on products sold in Taiwan.

Kuan said the proposal demonstrates the nation¡¦s determination to open up its market to the world.

A strong case in point is to allow lawyers, accountants and architects from other countries, excluding China, to invest in local companies or to set up local branches with local partners in the pilot zones, he said.

The government currently does not prioritize joining the TPP over the RCEP or vice versa, Kuan said.

He said both the TPP and the RCEP are of importance to Taiwan, as trade with the 12 members of the TPP represents about 35 percent of the nation¡¦s total trade, while trade with the 16 members of the RCEP accounts for more than 50 percent of the nation¡¦s total trade.

If Taiwan can be considered a second-round candidate for the TPP after an initial deal is completed early next year, as the US expects, Taiwan could be able to join the TPP after two or three years of negotiations, earlier than the previous target of entry into the TPP by 2020, Kuan said.

The government has been seeking to be recognized as a dialogue partner to ASEAN to secure a better chance of joining the RCEP when an agreement is concluded in 2015, Kuan said.

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