The most important single step that the US can take to support Taiwan’s economic prosperity and security is to ensure that the nation is part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a former senior US Department of State official said on Saturday.
“TPP is turning into a very important organization that we hope will provide greatly expanded trade and investment relations among the most dynamic economies on the globe,” said David Keegan, a former deputy director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and former director of the US Department of State’s Taiwan Coordination Office.
Keegan said TPP could be the “bedrock” for a new era of prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.
He was the keynote speaker at the annual Taiwanese Association of America, Greater Washington Chapter Thanksgiving Banquet in Washington.
“Some say that Taiwan should not be part of the TPP, but that is nonsense,” Keegan said. “Like it or not, China will do anything necessary to ensure that Taiwan is not part of the formal negotiating process for TPP.”
“That is annoying, even infuriating, but it is reality,” Keegan added.
He said Taiwan had some of the best economic minds and some of the best trade negotiators in the Asia-Pacific region.
“With US cooperation and support, they must find ways around the roadblocks and position Taiwan to be a full part of the TPP when it comes into force,” Keegan said.
“Nothing that Taiwan or the US can do is more important to Taiwan’s future prosperity and security than this,” he said. “If we try, if we work together, we can ensure that Taiwan gets what it needs.”
He said that free and fair elections in Taiwan “scare the living daylights” out of the leadership in Beijing.
China warns the US almost every month that the US will “pay a price” unless it abandons Taiwan and every month Washington rejects that warning, Keegan said.
“And we will continue to do so,” he added.
Association president Chen Jen-jen said the banquet had traditionally been an opportunity for the Taiwanese-American community to thank the US “for being such a close friend and ally.”
The keynote speakers were introduced by senior political adviser to the Formosan Association for Public Affairs Gerrit van der Wees.
Former US National Security Council director of Asian affairs Robert Suettinger said China might not be as threatening as it appeared.
He said its economic growth is slowing, it has environmental problems, social and political imbalances, massive corruption within the Chinese Communist Party and the armed forces, and unrest in many areas.
Beijing does not like change that it cannot control, Suettinger said.
As electoral politics develop in Taiwan, China’s attitude and statements “may get tougher and they may get more threatening,” he said.
“Beijing has made use of hard-edged nationalism to win support from the Chinese public,” Suettinger said. “That kind of nationalism will make itself felt in the coming year, perhaps in a shrill and angry tone directed at one or both of the political parties in Taiwan. Keep your minds clear and your hearts strong — the future looks good.”