New Representative to the US Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) on Friday said that the signing of free-trade agreements (FTAs) is critical to Taiwan’s competitive edge and its economic future.
In his first news briefing after he took over the job from King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), Shen said that because South Korea, one of Taiwan’s major competitors in the global market, has signed an FTA with the EU, Taiwan is losing its competitive edge.
Shen said it is possible that Taiwan will lose to South Korea in global competition even in selling instant noodles in the EU market as Seoul enjoys tariff-free status, but Taipei has to pay a 6.4 percent tax. The South Korea-EU FTA took effect in July 2011.
Shen made the remarks when asked to comment on the strong opposition against the cross-strait service trade agreement signed in June last year. The stiff resistance prompted a political standoff following the occupation of the main chamber of the Legislative Yuan by protesting students skeptical of the trade pact.
The Sunflower movement ended the 24-day occupation of the legislature on Thursday after Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) pledged to pass a new law to allow the public’s monitoring of negotiations with China before reviewing the trade-in-services agreement.
Shen said people opposing the agreement resorted to populism to strengthen their stance against the pact with China, asking the government to backtrack from its promises in the trade talks with Beijing.
He said the way these protesters dealt with the service trade agreement was not democratic.
Shen said he is afraid that the chaos related to the service trade agreement with China will lead US negotiators with Taiwan on trade issues to worry about whether Taiwan will be able to keep its promises in talks once local opposition emerges.
However, Shen said Washington has never had doubt about Taipei’s determination to push for economic liberalization.
In the eighth round of talks between Taiwan and the US under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) on April 4, the US praised Taiwan’s determination to relax trade restrictions.
Meanwhile, Shen said senior US officials have reiterated Washington’s commitment to Taipei under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which was enacted in 1979, as part of its increased focus on the Asia-Pacific region.