The US sees its future “inextricably” linked to the Asia-Pacific region and Taiwan fits into the picture as an “invaluable partner” of the US, US Assistant Secretary of State Jose Fernandez said in Taipei yesterday.
“Our strong economic relationship covers more than six decades. Taiwan has been an invaluable partner in influencing others to embrace reform and strive for economic growth,” Fernandez said in an address to the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei.
As the first high-level US official to visit Taipei since the legislature voted to allow imports of US beef containing the livestock leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine, Fernandez praised the move and encouraged Taiwan to continue to proceed with “real liberalization.”
During his 25-minute speech that put US-Taiwan economic relations in the larger Asian context, Fernandez did not unequivocally state the US’ stance on Taiwan’s bid for the US-led emerging Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — unlike the way the US quickly threw its support for Japan, Mexico and Canada, which joined the talks with the nine TPP members after they expressed their interests in the economic bloc last year.
However, Fernandez did encourage Taiwan to make the case for TPP membership, a goal President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has said he hoped to achieve in eight years.
“We commend President Ma for recognizing the importance of trade integration and for his expressed determination to push forward liberalization measures that would help Taiwan make its case as a possible candidate for future trade agreements,” Fernandez said.
He called on Taiwan’s leaders to implement meaningful market liberalization measures and to pursue new trade agreements, saying firm resolve as well as commitment to free market principles as a responsible WTO member are essential attributes to live by.
“We will support Taiwan as it embraces these fundamental prerequisites to effective and meaningful trade integration,” Fernandez said.
He said the recent steps taken by Taiwan to resolve the beef issue will be important in “helping to rebuild confidence in the [US-Taiwan] bilateral trade relationship,” adding that “more comprehensive economic liberalization will be an essential component for securing Taiwan’s economic future.”
In recent years, the immensely valuable relationship between the US and Taiwan has hit some bumps in the road that hindered our partnership and progress, he said.
“One of these things that I really want to stress is that we got to find a way. We cannot afford for these bumps to continue. We need to make sure that they do not detract from efforts to make use of our full potential,” he said.
He also encouraged Taiwanese businesspeople to make investments in the US, saying that under the program called SelectUSA, “we can provide some business consulting and training that they need in order to comply with the regulations.”
“We can also direct [investors] to different states to make sure that potential investors can connect to the right partners in their investment selection process,” he said.
Fernandez’s three-day visit in Taipei, which wrapped up yesterday, was part of an Asian tour that included stops in Hong Kong and Indonesia.