Taiwan seeks to join trans-Pacific trade pact within 10 years: Ma

Taipei, Nov. 14 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou said Monday Taiwan aims at joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) within ten years to increase the country's share of world markets. Ma said the creation of the necessary conditions to enable Taiwan to join the TPP is part of his blueprint for a "golden decade" of development in Taiwan. The president noted that although Taiwan has inked the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China, only one-fifth of the goods from both sides are included in the ECFA. He added that Taiwan "still has a long way to go toward securing a high-quality free trade agreement." Ma made his remarks while meeting with 24 representatives from the Taipei Computer Association (TCA) and the Association of Industries in Science Parks at the Presidential Office. During the meeting, Ma pointed out that Taiwan is still in talks with Singapore regarding the signing of a free trade agreement and that an agreement with New Zealand is also on Taiwan's priority list, he said. Ma went on to say it took Taiwan 12 years to finally join the World Trade Organization after Taiwan decided to make a bid for membership in 1990. Conditions back then were very different to now, and Taiwan does not necessarily need that amount of time to join the TPP, he said, "but we need to be pragmatic." Nine countries (Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam) have decided to join the TPP, Ma said. If Japan joins in the future and Taiwan is left outside the trade zone, it will be hard for Taiwan to compete with others in the international arena, Ma explained. He stressed that eight years of Democratic Progressive Party leadership (between 2000 and 2008) had isolated Taiwan, resulting in a reduced share of global markets. "We cannot let the mistake happen again. We will be very, very careful about this issue," he said. The TPP was originally a multilateral trade agreement signed between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore in 2005. The U.S. joined on board in 2009, with the aim of making the TPP a zero-tariff agreement, covering 95 percent of goods, by 2015. (By Lee Shu-hua and Ann Chen)