Sat, Oct 29, 2011 - Page 3 News List

US under pressure on F-16 sale

MONEY TALKS:According to a US analyst, a report on losses in the US aerospace sector highlights the positive economic impact the sale of F-16 aircraft to Taiwan could have

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

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.

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