16 December 2009

RP to seek inclusion of Subic-Clark-Kaohsiung corridor in Taiwan-China free-trade area

TAIPEI—Not wanting to be left behind, the Philippines will be seeking to gain a ticket to the proposed Taiwan-China Economic Cooperation and Framework Agreement (Ecfa) by asking Taipei to include the Subic-Clark-Kaohsiung economic corridor in the negotiations for the planned free-trade area (FTA).

Ambassador Antonio Basilio, resident representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco) here, said there are now concerns that most of the Taiwanese investments that are supposed to go to the Philippines will just again be diverted to China with the forging of the Ecfa.

This, he said, makes it more pressing for Meco to ask the Taiwanese government to consider expanding the Subic-Clark-Kaohsiung economic corridor to include some southern provinces of Mainland China and have it incorporated in the proposed Taiwan-China FTA.

“So this will be our assurance. We will probably formalize this proposal in the next JEC [Joint Economic Conference] meeting [of the Philippines and Taiwan],” Basilio told the BusinessMirror.

The next JEC, which serves as the venue for the Philippines and Taiwan in coming up with new bilateral cooperation programs, is scheduled early next year.

Taiwan and China, on the other hand, are scheduled to negotiate the terms of the Ecfa, which is the initial step in the opening up of trade between the Chinese nations, in the first half of 2010.

Basilio said all the three countries will benefit from the expanded economic corridor because they will be able to complement each other in manufacturing through seamless production lines in their respective economic zones, aside from according all parties larger markets.

He said with the addition of the Philippines in the picture, the products to be produced by China and Taiwan will gain access to the 600-million Asean market. They will also be able to gain benefit from the skilled work force of the Philippines, particularly in the higher end of the value chain.

The Philippines, meanwhile, will be able to get some of the investments.

He said aside from the fears of diversion of Taiwanese investments to China, the Philippines will also lose out more Taiwanese tourists to the Mainland with the Ecfa. “In tourism, we are feeling it now,” he said.

To prevent this from happening, Basilio said the Philippines will have to sell the idea of an expanded version of the economic corridor involving southern China.

The Philippines and Taiwan are now in the final stages of the completion of the requirements in the Subic-Clark-Kaohsiung economic corridor, which is supposed to funnel Taiwanese investments to the economic zones of Subic and Clark, where they will enjoy preferential treatment. (Max V. de Leon, Business Mirror)