A total of 21 major textile manufacturers in Taiwan, which have already invested in six central American nations, formed an investment association under a cooperation pact with six central American republics on Monday, the China Economic News Service reported.

The establishment of the Taiwanese central American investment association is aimed at promoting the cooperation of textile technologies between Taiwan and the six central American nations, including El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Both sides are expected to develop the latest textile and garment technologies, ranking officials at the non-profit China Textile Institute (CTI), which represented the Taiwan side, said.

El Salvador Ambassador to the Republic of China Francisco Ricardo Santana signed the mutual assistance agreement on behalf of six central American nations. Yao Hsin-chun, president of CTI, also signed the pact.

Statistics show that Taiwan's textile exports to central America were valued at $178m in 2000, representing about 1.25 per cent of the island's total textile exports. This indicates that there is still room for future cooperation between Taiwan and the central American nations, ranking CTI officials said.

Over the past few years, central America has become an important foothold for Taiwanese textile companies to make inroads overseas. The signing of the agreement will assist the textile technology development in central America and help Taiwan businesses take root there.

Representatives from CTI are scheduled to visit Central America in May and collect relevant market information. CTI will also offer assistance in the establishment of textile training centres in the six central American nations.