The administration of US President Barack Obama came under new pressure on Thursday to sell advanced F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan.
While Obama has refused to sell the fighters as part of an arms package announced last month, the White House has said that a sale is still under consideration.
That consideration is likely to be boosted by a new report from Stephen Fuller, an economist at George Mason University in Virginia.
Fuller concludes that the US economy is at risk of losing more than 1 million jobs and US$1 trillion in economic investment in the aerospace sector as a result of projected defense budget cuts.
In a statement issued on Thursday night, US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert -Hammond-Chambers said: “The impending financial tsunami to hit the defense and aerospace sector comes at a time when the Taiwan government seeks to procure 66 -replacement F-16C/D fighters for its aging fighter fleet — a purchase that would result in a gross investment of almost nine billion dollars.”
He said the investment would support more than 16,000 jobs.
In contrast to the “dire consequences” of the defense budget cuts, Hammond-Chambers said, a sale of F-16C/Ds to Taiwan would have a positive economic impact throughout the US.
“Should the Taiwan sale fail to materialize, however, current orders would only sustain the F-16 production line for another two years,” he said. “The closing of the F-16 production line would simply add further job losses to the sector, impacting the US states already hit hard by the proposed budget cuts.”
With Obama up for re-election next year and polls indicating that he is in political trouble as a result of the poor economy, he could be increasingly sensitive to the F-16 situation.
“There is already a strong strategic case in favor of releasing new F-16s to Taiwan. US economic security would also be well served by the sale,” Hammond-Chambers said. “Yet the Obama administration has not moved forward on this issue due to concerns over China’s sensitivities.”
“The US-Taiwan Business Council believes that the US government should be evaluating the F-16C/D sale based on the needs of Taiwan and on its significant beneficial impact on the US economy, not on China’s foreign policy priorities,” he said.