Taiwan needs to reduce trade barriers to fulfill the commitments of its accession to the WTO in 2002 before it can move forward on a free trade agreement (FTA) with the US, the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei said yesterday.
"There are still many issues that need to be [resolved] before signing the free trade agreement ? and the first thing is the Government Procurement Agreement [GPA] which Taiwan has not abided by," the chamber's president Tom Johnson said while revealing the chamber's "2005 Taiwan White Paper."
Johnson is also vice chairman at San Fu Gas Co, an affiliate of Allentown, Pennsylvania-headquartered Air Products and Chemicals Inc.
Echoing Johnson's comments, the chamber's executive director, Richard Vuylsteke, said the GPA is a major issue that has affected many US companies working in Taiwan.
Although Taiwan is blocked from acceding to the GPA due to China's objections to the name the nation uses to designate itself, it can still voluntarily abide by the regulations to enhance compliance with WTO commitments, Vuylsteke said.
If Taiwan can improve in this area, and reduce trade barriers to telecommunications services, pharmaceuticals and financial services, electronic commerce and agriculture, "the chamber will be favorably disposed to lobbying in favor of the FTA with the US," he said.
The chamber yesterday also called for revisions to outdated regulations.
"With regional and global competition intensifying rapidly, Taiwan needs to take quick action to ensure that it is not economically marginalized," it said in a statement.
This year's white paper stressed the need for regulatory reform in human resources and said its top priority this year was the relaxation of restrictions on travel by Chinese professionals to Taiwan.
It often takes months to be able to bring Chinese professionals into Taiwan just for a single project, which has caused difficulties for foreign investors and multinational companies in Taiwan, Vuylsteke said.
Healthcare, as well as institutional development are two other priorities noted in this year's white paper.
For healthcare, the chamber expects the government to strengthen enforcement of rules against counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals and agro-chemicals, which threaten consumer health.
It also called on the Legislative Yuan to halt infighting, which has obstructed crucial reform, and urged the realization of a restructuring of the executive branch to improve efficiency, in particular the establishment of a National Communications Commission to provide the telecom sector with a rational regulatory system.
Though the chamber did not call for the opening of direct links as it did last year, Johnson acknowledged the recent thaw in cross-strait relations after visits to China by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (
Johnson is scheduled to lead a delegation to Washington in the middle of this month to brief US government officials and lawmakers on the white paper's contents.