More liberalization for TPP: academics

OPENING UP::Experts at a forum yesterday said the nation has to liberalize its economy if it is serious about joining free-trade associations such as the TPP and TIFA

Staff writer, with CNA

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 - Page 14

The current state of market liberalization in Taiwan means the country has a long way to go before it can join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), academics said yesterday.

“Taiwan’s market liberalization is still far from reaching the threshold required for TPP admission,” Ho Szu-yin (何思因) of Tamkang University said at a forum on ties between the US, China and Taiwan, and how they are affected by recent leadership transitions in Beijing and Washington.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said he hopes Taiwan can join the US-led Pacific Rim free-trade pact within eight years.

If Taiwan does not liberalize its economy, it will not be enough to depend only on arms acquisitions to protect itself, said Ho, who teaches at the university’s Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies.

Most countries only realize the importance of liberalization during an economic downturn, such as the current global crisis, he said.

Ho predicted that China and the US would not make major policy moves for one year, following US President Barack Obama’s re-election on Nov. 6 and the installment of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) as the new head of the Chinese Communist Party last week.

At the same forum, Alexander Chieh-cheng Huang (黃介正), an assistant professor at the university, spoke of the progress in Taiwan-US ties during Obama’s first term.

He cited two announcements Obama made concerning arms sales to Taiwan and the expected resumption of talks under the Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) following the end of a row over US beef imports containing the feed additive ractopamine.

However, “Taiwan will face bigger pressure when handling its relations with the US from now on,” Huang added.

Looking ahead, Huang said Taiwan should maintain balanced ties with Democrats and Republicans.

He said that although the TIFA and the TPP are major issues, Taiwan is not paying attention to the trade liberalization needed to progress on either front.

“Politicians don’t want to antagonize voters and they woo them with big promises that run counter to trade liberalization,” he said.

On US arms sales to Taiwan, he said Washington is not concerned about whether Taiwan has the money to procure high-end weaponry or whether such sales would offend China.

The US is more concerned about whether Taiwan has a budget sufficient to implement an all-volunteer military and whether its arms purchase list matches its financial means, he added.