The Washington-based US-Taiwan Business Council has issued a five-point list of priorities for this year, including a pledge to continue fighting for the sale of 66 F-16C/Ds and pushing for the US to assist Taiwan in buying diesel-electric submarines.
Also on the list are a full resumption of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement; US Cabinet-level visits to Taiwan and support for Taiwan’s inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
In a survey of last year, council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers said the White House had balked at Taiwan’s request to replace F-16s “for fear it will damage US-China ties.”
“The increasingly overt manner in which Chinese considerations of American security interests in the Taiwan Strait are calibrated endangers the status quo,” he said.
Reflecting on the political environment in Taiwan, -Hammond-Chambers said Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) -presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had run a “somewhat restrained and disciplined campaign.”
However, despite his significant achievements in cross-strait relations and some of the economic benefits that have accrued from that, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) “has been struggling to maintain a truly meaningful lead.”
“Lack of progress on important reforms, lingering public uneasiness with the ultimate objective of his China policy, and an apparently cooling economy have all contributed to Ma’s inability to better capitalize on his incumbent advantage,” Hammond-Chambers said.
However, the “overall approach” of US President Barack Obama’s administration seems to have changed over the past four months with more support for the bilateral relationship, Hammond-Chambers said.
While it is not clear exactly why the administration had taken positive steps now, it was likely responding to the possibility that Tsai might win the presidential election, he said.
Taiwan is in the midst of an increasingly important and expansive trade liberalization effort that now includes Singapore, India, Japan, the Philippines and New Zealand, Hammond-Chambers said.
“When I visited Taiwan last month, I came away believing that Australia too was keen to expand its bilateral trade relationship with Taiwan through negotiated liberalization,” he said.
Expanding opportunities are changing the attitude of Taiwan’s trade negotiators and political leadership and had reduced their urgency to re-engage with the US by providing concessions on primarily agricultural products, he added.
The US government seems to believe that trade negotiations are likely to resume sometime between the Jan. 14 elections and the May 20 presidential inauguration, -Hammond-Chambers said. “I believe this view to be overly optimistic and do not expect Taiwan to place itself in a position to overcome the latest issues on beef until the summer of 2012 at t