Thu, Nov 08, 2012 - Page 3 News List

US election may help Taiwan realize trade, arms deals

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

The US election results are unlikely to have any major impact on the country’s relations with Taiwan, but could help in some areas.

US President Barack Obama’s victory means that foreign policy will follow the same lines followed over the past four years.

However, analysts have said that the campaign has probably driven the president toward a slightly more conservative view of and a tougher stand on China. This could be good for Taiwan, leaving the administration more open to trade deals and even increased arms sales if Taipei is interested, analysts said.

Republicans held onto their majority in the US House of Representatives, while the Democrats retained the US Senate. Thus House Republicans will remain free to “rock the boat” and support pro-Taiwan initiatives — such as a push for better representation within international organizations — even though the White House may not agree with such initiatives, analysts said.

As a result of retirements and election defeats, the 154-strong Taiwan Caucus in the House may have lost as many as 20 members. It may be possible to rebuild the numbers quickly by recruiting new members, but it will take time to replace the lost expertise and experience.

One big loss is that Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — who won re-election in Florida — will, under party rules, have to give up her chairmanship of the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee in the next US Congress.

Ros-Lehtinen has been a strong supporter of Taiwan and pushed through pro-Taiwan legislation that might not have survived under weaker leadership. Insiders say that she will be replaced by Republican Representative Ed Royce of California, another Taiwan supporter who can be relied upon to back many of her issues.

“Ros-Lehtinen was great and we are going to miss her a lot,” Formosan Association of Public Affairs official Coen Blaauw said.

A close observer of Taiwan issues in Congress, Blaauw said: “Royce is another strong leader and we are confident that he will do a very good job.”

Blaauw stressed that it generally benefits Taiwan to have different parties in control of the White House and the House of Representatives because that frees the House to push more demanding bills and not always stay within the president’s “comfort zone.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has already said she will not stay in office for Obama’s second term and is likely to be replaced by either UN Ambassador Susan Rice, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry or National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon.

In public or private all three have praised President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) policies toward China.

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