Sun, Nov 24, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Siew’s US business trip wraps up

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Former vice president Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) and a large delegation of Taiwanese business leaders leave Washington this weekend after conducting high level talks on Taiwan’s relationship with China and its need to expand trade ties with the US.

The group is visiting San Francisco before returning home on Wednesday.

While no details have been released, Siew met privately with members of the US Congress, with US Trade Representative Michael Froman, Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury Marisa Lago and with officials from the US State Department.

Earlier in New York, they met with decisionmakers from top US companies and financial institutions including JPMorgan Chase and Co, Citigroup Inc, Corning Inc and BlackRock Inc.

Siew made one major public address on Taiwan’s need to enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations and gave one interview to the Wall Street Journal.

In the interview, Siew said that Taiwan was not ready for political dialogue with Beijing and there was a need to take care of “economic matters first, before we take care of the political ones.”

He said much work remained to be done, including wrapping up agreements on trade in services, commodities and goods, as well as establishing a dispute settlement mechanism.

“When we can finish this whole project, we can then institutionalize and normalize the trade relationship between Taiwan and China,” Siew told the Wall Street Journal.

He said Taiwan was a democratic society and that the opinion of the general population — as reflected through polls — was that it was still “too premature for us to deal with sensitive and political issues at this juncture.”

As Siew and his party were leaving Washington, the Jamestown Foundation published a paper by Asia writer David Cohen, which said Taiwan’s trade agreements with Singapore and Japan should “calm fears” of China’s economic domination.

“While China has apparently given its blessing to Taiwan to strike trade deals independently, it has also been applying pressure for talks about the island’s political status, as well as pushing for further economic cooperation,” Cohen said in the paper.

“But the mainland appears to be unable or unwilling to interfere with Taiwan’s seeking alternatives — likely calculating that to do so would cost it the political influence it has gained with trade agreements in recent years,” the paper said.

Cohen said that even as China seeks to expand its economic integration with Taiwan it has not stopped the nation from seeking alternative markets.

“While China is a vast and attractive trading partner, its previous efforts to deploy economic coercion have been unimpressive,” he said.

“In order for it to use trade as an effective political weapon, China will have to be not only important but indispensable,” Cohen added.

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