Taiwan's envoy to Singapore will emphasise trade

TAIWAN - Taiwan's new representative to Singapore said yesterday that speeding up bilateral trade agreement talks between the two countries will be a top priority after he arrives in the city-state next month.

"I have confidence and will try to accomplish the mission," Fadah Hsieh told local media at the foreign ministry in Taipei after attending a swearing-in ceremony for his new post.

Hsieh, however, said that it is "unrealistic" to give a timetable for negotiations leading to the ultimate singing of the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP).

Many factors could interfere with the ASTEP negotiation process on both sides, but Hsieh said he and his team will try their best to seal the deal as soon as possible.

The 62-year-old had served as vice minister of Economic Affairs and is an experienced economic expert with a diplomatic background. He was Taiwan's representative to Switzerland from 2008.

Hsieh replaced Vanessa Shih, who returned to Taiwan last month reportedly because of Singapore's dissatisfaction with her performance during her three-year tenure.

During his remarks at the ceremony, Foreign Minister Timothy Yang said Hsieh's familiarity with economic and trade affairs will be extremely useful in pushing ASTEP forward.

Meanwhile, former Vice Foreign Minister Shen Ssu-tsun was also sworn-in as Taiwan's new envoy to Japan in the same ceremony.

"I am doing my best to learn Japanese now," Shen said in Japanese.

Shen was previously questioned by the local media following his appointment last month about his competence in understanding Japanese.

In response, he vowed to communicate with Japanese in their language after assuming the position and will "deliver a public speech in Japanese in six months."

"I will keep my promise," he said, adding that he has been taking Japanese lessons twice every week and will continue to do so before leaving Taiwan May 30, the same day he will officially take up his new post.

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