An industry group lobbying for US sales of new Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 jets to Taiwan says opposition from US Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin will cost jobs.
The US-Taiwan Business Council distributed an appeal yesterday for supporters to lobby Levin’s staff, council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers said.
The appeal says Levin, a Michigan Democrat, blocked an amendment co-sponsored by US senators John Cornyn, a Republican, and Robert Menendez, a Democrat, that would mandate the US sell at least 66 F-16C/D jets to Taiwan.
Levin spokeswoman Tara Andringa said Levin was not blocking the measure and that objections from other senators would defeat the required unanimous consent.
The amendment “is supported by a large bipartisan caucus of senators, as well as by the International Association of Machinist & Aerospace Workers,” according to the business council’s appeal.
“An F-16 sale to Taiwan represents a boost to the US economy, with approximately US$8.7 billion in economic output, supporting nearly 88,000 job-years of employment for our manufacturing sector,” the council said.
The legislative skirmish represents the latest twist in the fight over how to fortify Taiwan’s defenses against China.
US President Barack Obama has made improved relations with China one of his foreign policy priorities, and officials in Beijing have suspended military ties after past US arms sales to Taiwan.
The US announced in September that it would sell US$5.3 billion in upgrades to Taiwan’s earlier generation of F-16 jets instead of agreeing to the country’s request to buy a newer version. Taiwan has said it needs both for an adequate level of defense as China continues its military buildup across the Taiwan Strait.
The Pentagon announced that annual defense talks with China would proceed on Wednesday in Beijing, indicating the US has dodged a rift in relations over the September sale.
“Senator Levin’s own state of Michigan stands to receive US$86 million in economic benefits from such a sale, and it would support approximately 880 job-years of employment in the state,” according to the business council’s appeal.
The council also cited International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers president Thomas Buffenbarger as saying the F-16 assembly line “is completely dependent upon foreign sales.”
Lockheed has said a Taiwanese purchase of new F-16s would help keep the production line in Fort Worth, Texas, open beyond 2013.
“This sale would maintain production until 2018,” Buffenbarger said, according to the appeal. “It is important to note that the assembly line and supplier base support over 87,000 good paying US jobs.”