US should support TPP membership for Taiwan

For Taiwan, the resumption of Trade & Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks with the U.S. is only the beginning of what must be a sustained push for more wide-ranging trade arrangements with its myriad trading partners. A chief target for the United States should be encouraging Taiwan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as soon as possible.

The U.S.-led TPP is an ambitious attempt by the Obama administration to revitalize U.S. commercial relations. The TPP, along with recently passed trade accords with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, are intended to signify the United States’ economic revival. The constructive and strategic U.S. engagement in Asia was in the interests of all nations in the region and would help create a mutually beneficial future for both the U.S. and Taiwan, as well as for the world.            

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Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) recently conveyed his strong support for a U.S.-Taiwan bilateral investment agreement (BIA), to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. Menendez also reiterated his support for Taiwan's future efforts to enter the TPP.

“Taiwan’s continued political relevance and de facto autonomy is in part contingent upon its economic vitality and broad integration into the regional and global economies,” said Olivia Enos, a researcher at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation.          
 
According to a recent statement by the U.S. Trade Representative, “The dedication of our partners from Taiwan to achieving positive outcomes in investment, information, and communication technology services, and other areas is a testament to…Taiwan’s economic opening and deepening ties with regional and global partners.”            
Many experts agree that Taiwan should join the TPP sooner rather than later. If Taiwan joins TPP negotiations soon, it could get in on the ground floor of the resulting economic integration and increase in trade. The TPP would help Taiwan keep pace with its regional competitors by expanding its markets beyond dependence on China.         

There seems to be agreement all around—from the U.S., from Taiwan, and from economic analysts—that it is time that U.S.-Taiwan economic relations move forward. One way to accomplish this is for Taiwan to join the TPP. Taiwan brings strong credentials for TPP membership. As a nation dependent on international trade, Taiwan knows the growth and job creation benefits that come from lowering trade barriers and improving conditions for overseas investors. Taiwan has shown itself to be a willing partner for engaging in trade liberalization.           

The U.S. should consider the benefits to be gained from greater economic integration with Taiwan. With two-way trade totaling $63.2 billion in 2012, Taiwan is the 11th largest trading partner of the U.S., its 16th largest export market and the 7th largest destination for U.S. agricultural exports. Joining the TPP would not only significantly benefit Taiwan’s economy but also boosting economic growth for United States and the other TPP members.

With Taiwan’s links to production supply chains extending across Asia and around the globe, Taiwan’s membership in the TPP could significantly add to economic integration, within Asia as well as between Asia and other important regions. It is critical that the U.S. voice its continued support for Taiwan as a viable partner in international trade and regional economic integration.         

Taiwan has benefited greatly from the U.S. pivot to Asian-Pacific region. As a result of increased U.S. activity in the region, Taiwan has been relieved from China’s political pressures, affirmed as a partner, and has improved its chances of joining the TPP. Taiwan has taken significant strides to prove that it is a worthy player in the game of international trade and regional stability.

USTR Froman said that the TPP was open to all APEC economies, including Taiwan. It is hoped that the U.S. and Taiwan will continue promoting economic cooperation and trade under the TIFA and furthermore support TPP membership for Taiwan. As the U.S. looks to the Asian-Pacific, Taiwan presents an opportunity for economic partnership not to be missed. U.S. leadership and support is critical to solidifying Taiwan’s economic and political resilience in the region. The U.S. should do all it can to support TPP membership for Taiwan.     

Wang is a former advisory commissioner for the Overseas Chinese Affairs Council of Republic of China (Taiwan) in the United States; and former president and senior adviser of the Taiwan Benevolent Association of America (TBAA).

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