The US yesterday reiterated its support for Taiwan’s bid to join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), saying it welcomed the nation’s interest in the proposed regional trade bloc.
“Our view hasn’t changed,” American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) spokesman Mark Zimmer said.
Zimmer was responding to questions on whether the 11 countries negotiating the pact — excluding the US — might be vulnerable to influence from China, which could affect Taiwan’s bid to participate.
Calling it “a hypothetical question,” Zimmer said the US has noted Taiwan’s interest in the TPP and added that China is not among the 12 countries discussing the trade pact.
“In the short term, our view hasn’t changed,” he said. “We welcome Taiwan’s interest.”
The government has argued that the legislature must pass the service trade agreement it signed with China in June last year to open the doors to the nation’s participation in the TPP, but a US official in Taiwan contradicted that stance on Monday.
US Department of State senior official for APEC affairs Robert Wang said Washington does not see any direct connection between the cross-strait service pact and the TPP.
However, Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) on Monday said the nation had to neutralize China’s influence before it could join regional trade blocs because Beijing could get other countries to block Taiwan’s bid.
When Zimmer was asked whether China would be a factor in the success of Taiwan’s TPP bid, he responded: “We don’t know yet.”
“We will deal with that if and when that time comes,” he told local media on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the American Institute in Taiwan’s Community Garden in Taipei.
The TPP is being negotiated by the US, Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico and Brunei. They are aiming to finish the first round of negotiations later this year.