The US government should involve Taiwan in either the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal or open bilateral trade discussions with Taipei, a new report from the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations says.
Such a move would strengthen bilateral economic relations and avail US businesses of greater opportunities, it says.
Titled Re-balancing the Rebalance, the 30-page report examines the progress made on the non-military elements of US President Barack Obama’s policy to pursue a strategic pivot toward the Asia-Pacific region.
While the report does not enlarge on its support for including Taiwan in the TPP, it will be welcomed by Taipei. President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has been seeking US backing for TPP membership for some time without any obvious results. The new report is thus encouraging.
“Despite progress in some areas, implementation of the rebalance thus far has been uneven,” the report says.
This creates the risk that the rebalance may end up as less than the sum of its parts, it says.
“While most governments have expressed support for greater US engagement in the region, the strategy is currently perceived as primarily a military strategy, a perception reinforced by the under-resourcing of the civilian components,” it says.
The report says that some countries in the region see the rebalance as an attempt to contain a rising China, which may limit their willingness to deepen cooperation and coordination with the US.
“As the US considers how to more fully shape and articulate the public diplomacy elements of the rebalance, it should make clear that the policy is about broadening the US engagement, not containing China,” says the report, which was released on Thursday by US Senator and committee chairman Robert Menendez.
“The rebalance seeks to expand economic growth, ensure regional security, and improve human welfare for the benefit of all, not the detriment of one,” it says.
The report also recommends including the Philippines and Indonesia along with Taiwan in the ongoing TPP talks and suggests a bilateral investment treaty with China. It says the Obama administration has made the TPP the principal focus of US trade policy in the region and a “cornerstone” of the rebalance.
“While the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has a critically important and ever-expanding portfolio in the region, it currently lacks the funding and personnel to meet current demands, much less future challenges and opportunities,” the report says.
It says the US should begin to develop more multilateral structures among allies and partners around shared issues of concern, including common environmental and security threats. A US-India-Japan trilateral deal could be very effective at addressing a range of regional issues, it says.
“The US should ensure that Taiwan is included in all appropriate regional architectures and institutional building efforts,” it adds.
“The speed with which the Asia-Pacific’s regional architecture is expanding and the growing set of critical issues that it is needed to address, demands greater US engagement,” it says.
Regional institutions can play a key role in the resolution and management of contentious maritime issues, a critical area of friction in the region and an area where the US can contribute substantial technical expertise, it says.