Taiwan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade pact is unlikely to happen any time soon, Washington experts say.
“Taiwan would be a tricky one for the US government, so I don’t see any dramatic move in that direction,” Asian Development Bank executive director Robert Orr told a conference this week.
“It’s always a touchy issue for us in terms of our relationship with China, and in my estimation it won’t be coming any time in the near term,” Orr added.
Victor Cha, director of Asian Studies at Georgetown University, said China would be a factor.
“Speaking very plainly, in terms of rounding out TPP, the brass ring is China, thus it’s going to be hard to have a conversation about Taiwan,” Cha said.
However, Cha said that Taiwan had worked very hard to bring itself to the table “in all sorts of different international institutions” and “you can’t rule anything out.”
“If in the long term TPP has a sort of transformational effect on not just the economic, but also the strategic picture, and if the cross-strait relationship continues to improve, you don’t know what’s possible in the future,” he said.
Organized by the Center for Security and International Studies (CSIS) and the Asian Studies Program at Georgetown University, the conference was focused on negotiating growth in Asia.
The proposed TPP agreement between the US, Japan and 10 other countries is not yet complete, and Taiwan hopes to join it as part of a second group of countries after the initial deal is reached.
Representative to the US Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) says that membership is a “must” for the next stage of Taiwan’s national development.
The countries currently involved in TPP talks account for about 40 percent of global economic output and more than a third of world trade.
Shen has told Washington reporters that joining the pact is vital for Taiwan to keep up with increasingly tough competition.
An academic paper on cross-strait relations published by the CSIS this week says that Taiwan continues to be “effectively excluded” from regional trade regimes such as the TPP and bilateral trade liberalization agreements.
Written by David Brown, a Johns Hopkins University professor of China studies, and Kevin Scott, an associate director of Asian policy studies at the Brookings Institution, the paper says that in October last year, then-minister of economic affairs Woody Duh (杜紫軍) said several other countries were willing to hold substantive trade negotiations with Taiwan, but that talks had not begun due to interference from China.
“The hesitant countries are believed to be India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia and perhaps Australia,” the paper says.
It says that the government’s inability to sign high-profile free-trade agreements (FTAs) has seemed like “a slow motion crisis” for Taiwan and that the risk of marginalization became more urgent when China and South Korea announced the conclusion of substantive negotiations on a bilateral FTA.
“While committed to its peaceful development policy, Beijing will have important tactical decisions to make about what can be accomplished in the remaining months of [President] Ma Ying-jeou’s [馬英九] presidency and on how it can position itself most effectively to influence the outcome of the 2016 election,” the paper says.
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