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

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9247
JPY
USD
118.78
GBP
USD
0.6657
CAD
USD
1.2190
INR
USD
62.395

Rates may not be current.