News / Economy

Taiwan, Singapore Sign Free Trade Deal as China Relents

Taiwan's Economic Affairs Minister Chang Chia-Juch and Foreign Minister David Lin attend a news conference after Taiwan and Singapore signed their agreement, Nov. 7, 2013.
Taiwan's Economic Affairs Minister Chang Chia-Juch and Foreign Minister David Lin attend a news conference after Taiwan and Singapore signed their agreement, Nov. 7, 2013.
Ralph Jennings
After more than three years of talks, Taiwan and Singapore have finally signed a trade liberalization deal. The pact was signed in Singapore on Thursday and represents Taiwan’s most significant to date. The deal signals that Taiwan’s powerful foe, China, has relaxed its' stance forbidding major countries from engaging directly with the island
 
Taiwan and its fifth largest trade partner, Singapore, hope the deal will provide a lift to two-way trade that reached $28.2 billion last year. China sees Taiwan as part of its territory rather than a state free to negotiate with other countries, and in the past Beijing had blocked deals such as this, except for pacts with Taiwan’s tiny diplomatic allies.
 
Scholars say Beijing has recently eased its position on Taiwan trade following its own economic cooperation pact with Taiwan, made in 2010 as part of a broader effort to get along after six decades of hostilities.
 
George Tsai, a political scientist at Chinese Cultural University, in Taipei, says China can tolerate deals that avoid implying that Taipei and Beijing are separate countries. He says that means no signatures by diplomats or agreements that mention the words “free trade deal.” The pact just signed with Taiwan’s fifth largest trading partner is called an economic partnership, or referred to by its acronym: ASTEP.
 
“It goes back to two issues, as what name and what form, by whom, to sign the agreement, ASTEP is two rep offices signing. Under this form, I think China can look the other way,” said Tsai.
 
Beijing, backed by its economic muscle, previously forbid its 170-plus diplomatic allies, including the world’s biggest countries, from engaging with Taiwan. China has seen Taiwan as part of its territory since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s. In the past, it has threatened to use military force to reunite the two, but over the past five years it has sought to impress Taiwan’s public with trade and investment tie-ups, part of a push toward eventual reunification.
 
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou is expected to win badly needed public support for the Singapore deal; his approval ratings currently hover around 20 percent. Taiwan’s trade with Singapore comes to five percent of its total with other territories, and the island government estimates the agreement will add $701 million to its $474 billion economy over the next 15 years.
 
Kweibo Huang, associate diplomacy professor at National Chengchi University, in Taipei, thinks the pact will especially help Taiwan catch up with regional economic integration. China, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia lead Taiwan in trade deals with one another as well as with Western nations. Taiwan signed its first major Asia-Pacific trade agreement in July with New Zealand.
 
Huang feels Taiwan’s domestic economy falls short of ideal, while its participation in increasingly fast-paced regional economic integration is limited. Huang adds that Taiwan must speed up the signing of free trade deals to ensure its economic security.
 
Taiwanese official media say exports to Singapore will grow by $782 million under the trade agreement, and imports by $719 million. The island’s manufacturing sector, the bedrock of its economy, would grow by $1.18 billion. The pact will also eliminate tariffs on 99 percent of Taiwan’s imports from Singapore, a boon to the free-port city state that already keeps tariffs low.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9240
JPY
USD
119.41
GBP
USD
0.6618
CAD
USD
1.2155
INR
USD
63.567

Rates may not be current.