A leading US congressman is introducing new legislation on Capitol Hill proposing a free-trade agreement [FTA] with Taiwan.
In a dramatic presentation to congressional staff on Wednesday, Democratic Representative Robert Andrews declared that he wanted to go further and would push US President Barack Obama to recognize Taiwan as a “free and independent sovereign state.”
While other Taiwan watchers at the briefing said they doubted the new legislation would be enacted soon, they agreed it would increase Taiwan’s profile in Washington and could strengthen its hand in the negotiations with China on signing an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA).
At the same briefing — organized by the Formosan Association for Public Affairs — Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, said an ECFA was set to be signed “despite concerns about ever-growing Chinese economic influence on the island.”
“Like the Trojan horse that allowed the Greek invaders to penetrate the inner walls of Troy, the ECFA may prove to be a gift horse that the people of Taiwan would rather not look in the mouth. [An] ECFA may prove to be a political tool that masquerades as a trade instrument to achieve China’s ultimate goal of absorbing Taiwan,” she said.
It was one of the rare occasions in Congress that representatives from both sides of the aisle seemed to agree.
“When the People’s Republic of China [PRC] rattles its saber against Taiwan, it is not simply testing Taiwan. It is testing the United States of America, testing whether we truly adhere to the values that we profess. Do we mean what we say — do we practice what we preach? That is what is being tested,” Andrews said.
He said that for both economic and strategic reasons, the time had come for an FTA between the US and Taiwan and that in the coming weeks, he would introduce a resolution in Congress calling on the White House to “actively pursue” such an agreement.
Andrews said that the two economies were complimentary and there would be “true mutual benefit,” adding that “the strategic advantage is even more self-evident. An FTA will be affirmation that the United States regards the people of Taiwan as a free, sovereign and independent people.”
“You don’t make free-trade agreements with someone else’s state or territory. You make free-trade agreements with sovereign people, and I think that is a hugely important symbol,” Andrews said.
He said an ECFA now being negotiated between Taiwan and China was “more of a cage than a framework.”
Taiwan, he said, was negotiating from a position of disadvantage.
“Any duly elected government has the autonomy to negotiate as it sees fit for its people,” Andrews said. “That presupposes negotiation that is free of coercion and is conducted in a truly bilateral and equivalent context, and that is most assuredly not the case. Because of the absence of United States support for Taiwan, the PRC is reading the situation as an indication to engage in a more coercive discussion with Taiwan. Active pursuit of a free-trade agreement between the United States and Taiwan would set a better context for whatever negotiations proceed between Taiwan and the PRC.”
Andrews said that what he was advocating was “a provocative position.”
“Our policy should move in a bolder and more truthful direction, acknowledging Taiwan as sovereign and independent. I know that’s provocative. It’s meant to be,” Andrews said.
He said that while he hoped China would evolve into a peaceful trading partner and be a true asset to the world economy, it would be a “dramatic mistake” to assume this would happen.
He said the best way to prepare for future Chinese growth was “not to compromise or cower in matters of principle.”
“We should provoke a non-violent discussion now, rather than wait for the day when the PRC has grown more strong and powerful and perhaps irreversibly bellicose in its relationship with the United States. The great moments of our history have been the ones where we have acted out of principle even when it’s risky or inconvenient. I think this is one of those moments,” Andrews said.
Asked about the credibility of his proposed legislation at a time when both the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress are opposed to FTAs, Andrews said it was both “practical and credible.”
Representative Scott Garrett, a Republican, supported Andrews and said the US should do everything possible “to support and bolster” Taiwan.
Garrett said that while most countries were now too frightened of China’s reaction to sign FTAs with Taiwan, many would likely follow suit if the US led the way.
He said that this in turn would give Taiwan more confidence in its direct negotiations with China.
The likelihood of the FTA legislation actually passing, Garrett said, was “only as real as the willingness of this Congress to stand up and do what is right.”
Ros-Lehtinen said that while US trade interests in Asia were stagnating, “the Chinese dragon is extending its claws even further into the Pacific.”
She said a US-Taiwan FTA would boost US exports to Taiwan and expand the US market share in Asia and strengthen bilateral ties.
“It is time for the Obama administration to move forward in pursuing an FTA with our good friend, our democratic ally, our stalwart pal Taiwan. Let’s do it and let’s do it now,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
Also See: EDITORIAL : The reason for the ECFA rush
Also See: ECFA could cause power shift: Tsai
‘NO EQUILIBRIUM’: Taiwan’s increased defense spending is a good step, but it needs to do more to have the ability to deter aggression from China, a senior US official said The US plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems — including mines, cruise missiles and drones — to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said. Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from years of precedent in which US military sales to Taiwan were spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing. However, US President Donald Trump’s administration has this year become more aggressive with China, and the sales would land as relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, lingering trade tensions, disputes about the
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
WORKING OVERTIME? NTU professor Lee Duu-jong denied that he had held a part-time position at a Chinese university or joined China’s Thousand Talents Program A candidate for the post of National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST) president yesterday dropped out of the race following a report questioning his links to Chinese academia and government programs. Lee Duu-jong (李篤中), a professor at National Taiwan University’s (NTU) chemical engineering department, was a member of China’s Changjiang Scholars’ Program in 2006 and was on the list of its Thousand Talents Program in 2017, a report by Chinese-language Mirror Media magazine said yesterday. The article said that Lee is suspected of having held a part-time job at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China and was the recipient
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator