The Cabinet has grandiose plans for liberalization, but it has allowed government departments to carry out a scorched earth campaign and act as if they were making a last desperate stand, all of which will present difficulties for joining the TPP.
Officials, the media and unions are saying that the ASTEP will help thrust Taiwan into ASEAN’s open arms. However, with the exception of import duty exemptions on a small amount of Taiwanese alcohol products, there will be little change in how local products are treated. Neither will Taiwanese products be able to be sent to other ASEAN countries via Singapore under the preferred ASEAN conditions, as only products made in Singapore qualify for the required certificate of origin.
Even if doubters decry the negative impacts of major trade agreements, the government should not exaggerate the positive effects.
None of this is to say that the signing of the ASTEP with Singapore should not be welcomed. The point is, entry into the TPP is still a long way off.
Tu Jenn-hwa is director of the Commerce Development Research Institute’s business development and policy research department.
Translated by Paul Cooper