Fri, Mar 15, 2013 - Page 3 News List

ANALYSIS: Academics say Taiwan needs trade liberalization

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Without an action plan, it would be impossible for Taiwan to sign up for the TPP in eight years, as President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has proposed, Chiu said.

Mignonne Chan (詹滿容), adjunct associate professor at National Chengchi University’s International Doctoral Programs in Asia-Pacific Studies, said the TIFA talks have produced “desirable outcomes,” which she attributed to the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China.

The conclusions reached in the TIFA talks heralded the possibility of Taiwan signing bilateral agreements with the US on investment and on trade in services and ICT products or even formulating plurilateral treaties within the WTO, which would provide “momentum to spur the nation’s economic growth,” she said.

Chan placed the importance of negotiation strategies and skills in subsequent TIFA talks over substantive issues to avail of benefits of the potential agreements.

As an example, Chan said that when the US demands Taiwan improve market access for its agricultural or food exports, Taiwan can request cooperation in tapping agricultural markets in third countries or in developing high-quality agricultural products in Taiwan to buffer negative impacts of opening up the agricultural market when an agreement on bilateral investment is negotiated.

Yen Chen-shen (嚴震生), a research fellow at National Chengchi University’s Institute of International Relations, said that the US did not refuse to support Taiwan’s bid to join the TPP when Deputy US Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis was asked about the US position at the press conference following the TIFA talks.

On the beef row that has hindered bilateral relations, Taiwan can only hope that the US positively addresses the FTA and TPP issues after restoring its trust in Taiwan through negotiations and investment, ICT products or the service sector through the so-called “building-block” approach, Yen said.

It is undeniable that Taiwan is “not ready” for liberalization to embrace the TPP, which demands comprehensive deregulation of industries and a high-degree of trade liberalization because Taiwan has done little to address the issues, he said.

Yen said he remained confident that the US will play an active role in pushing for Taiwan’s TPP membership as long as Taiwan continues to move toward liberalization because the TPP is connected with the US “pivot” to Asia “aimed at countering a rising China.”

Taiwan has expressed its wish for annual TIFA council meetings, but the US only set a goal for negotiations to take place next year.

Marantis said it is a “target” that TIFA council meetings be held annually, but “we will see how things go at the working group level.”

Liu Da-nien (劉大年), a researcher at the Chung-Hua Institute for Economic Research, said he placed more importance on whether Taiwan can properly address issues of concern to the US over the course of the year than what was agreed during Sunday’s talks.

As was the case in many other countries, a trade and investment framework agreement has acted as a platform between the US and countries in which the US has economic interests and could negotiate an FTA with, he said.

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