The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Taipei yesterday called on the government to adopt a more effective approach to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by forming a task force to accelerate progress.
The group’s call came after the nation’s efforts to become a candidate for second-round entry have remained in limbo over the past year.
As the 12-member trade bloc is likely to be formed next year, Taiwan needs to take decisive action to establish its credibility for trade liberalization, AmCham said.
“We are really worried that Taiwan will be marginalized [economically] as the world is moving forwards,” AmCham chairman Thomas Fann (范炘) told a press conference as the group issued its annual White Paper, adding that the China-South Korea free-trade agreement took effect this week, while the US is in talks with the EU over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
“Participating in a big trade organization will be a good way [to avoid such a risk],” Fann said.
The TPP represents a huge market, as the 12 economies involved produce more than 40 percent of global GDP, he said.
Joining the trade bloc would also help Taiwan reduce its reliance on China and rebalance its trade long term, he added.
In the White Paper, AmCham suggested that the Executive Yuan could create a TPP task force to ensure that the individual ministries and agencies carry out the necessary reforms.
The task force should oversee communications with the public and the legislature to build a sense of national mission behind TPP accession, it said.
Fann said the government should tap a high-ranking government official to lead the task force.
A political heavyweight with national recognition, such as former vice president Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), would be an ideal candidate, he said.
AmCham also warned that no invitations would be issued to join the TPP as some government agencies and private think tanks seem to imagine.
“Would-be candidates must apply,” the business group said in the White Paper.
Of the 12 members of the TPP, Taiwan has signed free-trade agreements with just New Zealand and Singapore, Fann said.
Taiwan needs to accelerate its efforts to become qualified by holding talks with those countries to solve existing, or potential, trade disputes, he said.
“Joining the TPP would make Taiwan a springboard for foreign companies to enter the trade bloc,” Fann said.
In response, the National Development Council said that as the government already has an international trade and economic task force, it would not consider forming another one.
The task force is convened by Vice Premier Simon Chang (張善政) every two to three months.
It requires ministries to report the latest progress on efforts to join the TPP, the council said.
The council said the government would continue deepening structural reforms and improve the business-related legal system in a bid to create a better environment for joining regional economic pacts.
“We hope the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei continues to voice its support for Taiwan participating in the TPP second-round negotiations,” the council said.
Additional reporting by Lauly Li
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