Mon, Dec 03, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan-US FTA urged at forum

HEAVYWEIGHTS:Stephen Young said Taiwan needs to control some of its agricultural demands, while William Stanton said the US should take a more strategic view

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Former chief economic adviser to the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs Nien Su, left, the International Assessment and Strategy Center’s Future Asia Project director John Tkacik, third left, former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) director Stephen Young, fourth left, former AIT director William Stanton, fourth right, Project 2049 Institute executive director Mark Stokes, third right, and Taiwan Sentinel editor-in-chief J. Michael Cole, second right, participate in a forum on Taiwan-US relations in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

Two former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) directors and other analysts from the US yesterday urged a renewed effort between the US and Taiwan to negotiate a free-trade agreement (FTA) as President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) struggles to convince Taiwanese not to depend on China for economic prosperity.

They made the call at a forum on Taiwan-US relations hosted by the Taiwan Thinktank and the Washington-based Global Taiwan Institute in Taipei.

This year’s event focused on how Taiwan and the US can work together to face China’s power.

As China’s sharp power influence grows, in addition to finding a more creative approach to support Taiwan’s military needs and encouraging visits by senior-level US officials, Washington should also renew efforts to nail down an FTA with Taipei at an early date, former AIT director Stephen Young said.

“But Taiwan needs to do something to control some of its agricultural lobby demands,” Young said, referring to opposition to the lifting of a ban on the import of US pork containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine and US beef offal products.

Taiwan’s import restrictions on US pork and certain beef products have long been considered a major hurdle in trade relations, most notably impeding the signing of a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

Former AIT director William Stanton said the US government should also look at the inking of an FTA with Taiwan from a more strategic point of view.

“If you look at the history of the US’ FTAs, the very first FTA we had was with Israel. Was it because we thought Israel was an important economic partner? Or why did we have an FTA with Morocco or Jordan? Was it because they were important economic partners? No, it was … for strategic reasons,” he said.

In the same vein, the US needs to think more strategically about Taiwan and “not just simply [about] the need to export more pork to Taiwan,” Stanton said.

Nien Su (蘇思年), a former chief economic adviser to the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, said that with the strong bipartisan support Taiwan enjoys in the US Congress, free trade is an area both sides can work on, but the Taiwanese government needs to give a clear signal of intent to the US.

Taiwan and the US should make free trade a priority next year and try to achieve positive movement on trade negotiations or any type of agreement before 2020 to avoid another missed opportunity, Su said.

The window of opportunity is rapidly closing as more issues are being put on the plate of US policymakers, he added.

However, Project 2049 Institute executive director Mark Stokes suggested signing a fair-trade agreement instead.

A fair-trade agreement would not only be in the US’ political interest, it would also be conducive to Taiwan and the US moving toward a more normal, stable and constructive relationship, said Stokes, a former Pentagon official who served as senior country director for Taiwan and China.

Commenting on the nine-in-one elections, Taiwan Thinktank chairman Wu Rong-i (吳榮義) said it was very “regrettable” that during the campaign, Taiwan had suffered systematic and organized disinformation efforts from China designed to influence Taiwanese voters.

“China is also facilitating the dissemination of false information through the control of newspaper, television, radio and online media in Taiwan. Even more disturbing is that China has directly supported the pro-China forces within Taiwan to speak on behalf of Beijing,” Wu said, calling China’s sharp power a “Trojan horse.”

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