US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said on Wednesday that the US should fundamentally restructure its involvement in the Asia-Pacific region and “firmly anchor” Taiwan into the global trading system.
“The United States must not shy away from including Taiwan into the broader international trading regime,” Royce said.
Delivering the annual B.C. Lee lecture on the US’ policy in the Asia-Pacific region, Royce said that for far too long discussion about Taiwan has been dominated by arms sales.
He told a packed audience at the Heritage Foundation in Washington that this “myopic approach ... is sadly inadequate.”
Royce described Taiwan as a world-class manufacturing hub with a robust democracy, and a strong commitment to human rights, free speech and free markets.
“So let’s complete the US-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and then, in short order, let’s begin negotiations regarding a bilateral investment agreement,” he said. “After that, it’s onward to a US-Taiwan free-trade agreement.”
He said that he strongly believes that where goods and services cross borders, armies do not.
“If this isn’t motivation enough, let’s consider that of the US$11 trillion of new wealth that will be generated worldwide over the next five years, close to half of this amount will be in Asia,” Royce said.
While China’s rise could not be ignored, Royce said that it did not need to be a collective obsession.
“The US must engage China and seek a more productive relationship, because it’s really in our best interests to make this relationship work,” he said.
Differences with Beijing about trade or human rights would never go away, he said.
“But to choose a path of contentiousness really limits what we are able to do,” Royce said.
Unfortunately, he said, the US does not have the economic influence in Asia that it once had. Economic activity had shifted gradually away from the US to China.
Inter-regional trade between China and Southeast Asia has grown tremendously, Royce said, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement could not alone reverse that trend.
Asia’s collective attention was gradually shifting away from economic prosperity to security concerns, he said.
“Where nations used to focus on trade and commerce, now they discuss nationalism, military budgets and even provocative behavior,” Royce said. “Look no further than the territorial disputes in the East China and South China seas as prime examples.”
The US must somehow find a way to reinvigorate engagement in Asia “not for fear that we may be left out, but rather we must engage so that we can once again move the focus squarely back to economic prosperity.”
On becoming chairman of the committee earlier this year, Royce — a Republican — made his first trip abroad to Taiwan, China, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.
“The region has changed so much that the old way of doing business will not help us achieve our objectives in future,” Royce said. “We must once again make America the most attractive location to do business for the Asia-Pacific region. Let’s get the conversation back on to economic prosperity and away from divisive nationalism.”