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

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8893
JPY
USD
118.31
GBP
USD
0.6660
CAD
USD
1.2459
INR
USD
61.427

Rates may not be current.