American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Stephen Young poured cold water yesterday on hopes that a US-Taiwan free trade agreement (FTA) would be inked any time soon.
Speaking to members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei yesterday, Young said "there are ... impediments to negotiating an FTA," citing the June 30 expiry of the US' Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which grants Taiwan "fast track" status for an FTA with the US.
The TPA allows the US president to negotiate trade pacts that Congress can approve or disapprove but not filibuster or amend.
"I don't think it's reasonable to expect to start a new set of FTA talks now and have a finalized agreement ready to present to Congress before TPA expires," Young said, adding that an extension of the TPA beyond June 30 was doubtful.
"Some of the new leadership [in Congress] are stating that [they] will not re-authorize [the TPA] unless it is strengthened with provisions on environmental protection and labor rights. And before you know it, the US will be in the middle of a presidential election campaign," Young said.
He also called on Taiwan "to negotiate with China to open the three links, especially direct flights, as soon as possible," and suggested that doing so could win the country its much sought-after trade deal.
However, in response to a question, he said that the US would not ink an FTA with Taiwan just for political reasons.
Economic considerations would be the basis for a future FTA, he added, encouraging the chamber's members to ask the Taiwanese authorities to give examples of how a US-Taiwan FTA would benefit their enterprises.
Young also praised Taiwan for "relying on sound, scientific data as the basis for reopening its market to US beef."
Meanwhile, 15 lawmakers on a legislative committee voted 5-0 yesterday to pass a draft report critical of the government's decision to resume US beef imports. They demanded the imports be suspended.
Pan-blue camp and Taiwan Solidarity Union lawmakers voted for the report after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators walked out of the meeting to show their disapproval. Eight committee members were absent.
DPP legislators Winston Dang (陳重信) and Wu Ming-ming (吳明敏) told reporters that the report's conclusions were "political" and disrespectful of professional opinions on food hygiene.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan