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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8050
JPY
USD
117.90
GBP
USD
0.6376
CAD
USD
1.1259
INR
USD
61.655

Rates may not be current.