American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt is scheduled to travel to Taipei for private talks with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
While Burghardt refused to discuss an agenda, the talks are likely to center on US-Taiwan relations during Ma’s next four years in office, with particular emphasis on trade and cross-strait policies.
Burghardt revealed the upcoming trip on the sidelines of a Washington conference focused on Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections and their implications for Taiwan, the US and cross-strait relations.
Pressed by reporters for a comment on the elections, Burghardt — speaking in a corridor just outside the main conference room — said: “Taiwan’s democracy has become a mature democracy. We can now see that democracy is really an inherent part of Taiwan’s identity.”
“Dr [Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate] Tsai Ing-wen [蔡英文] showed a wonderful example of democracy in her gracious acceptance of the result,” he said.
Burghardt said he would be in Taipei after the Lunar New Year holiday “not too long from now” and that he was looking forward to meeting with Ma.
He said he would also meet with Tsai “and other friends” during the upcoming visit.
Asked what China could learn from Taiwan’s democracy, Burghardt refused to answer.
“I am not going to pick that one up,” he said.
However, later while answering a question during the conference, Burghardt commented on the prospect of Taiwan joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which aims to enhance trade and investment.
“[The] TPP is a serious, broad, trade agreement very unlike the trade agreements that have been signed recently within Asia. It is very unlike the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement [ECFA]. It is not a half-baked, early harvest, trade agreement. It’s a serious agreement that gets into service areas,” Burghardt said.
“The Taiwan[ese] economy and Taiwan has been really protectionist. It remains very protectionist. Taiwan[ese] officials have made it clear publicly and privately that Taiwan is not ready for a TPP kind of agreement, but for Taiwan to aspire to it, and to move in that direction, would be very welcome by the United States,” he said.
“The same thing can be said about China. One of the clear things about the TPP is that one of the aims is to have a trade agreement that does not give state-owned enterprises special rights,” he said. “It forces state-owned enterprises to compete on equal terms with private companies and that would be really tough for China. Almost unimaginable.”