Taiwan’s current blitz to win US support for the nation’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact is having no impact whatsoever, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) economist Derek Scissors told a Washington conference on Thursday.
Asked if personal TPP lobbying by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and several business delegations was helping, Scissors replied: “No one is paying any attention.”
“This is not a slight to Taiwan,” he said. “There is a lot the US has to do on trade and the TPP is going to be a political brawl. When it is over, no one is going to remember what Taiwanese delegations were saying before the brawl started.”
Scissors, a specialist in Asian economic issues, was addressing a George Washington University conference on Taiwan and the TPP.
He said the US was going to “wake up politically” sometime in 2017 and ask: “OK, who’s next?”
“And what you want is for Taiwan to have its best offer ready at that time,” Scissors said. “It’s not lobbying, it’s not saying: ‘Look at me — everybody pay attention.’ Nothing matters until the negotiating starts, because at that time, they press a reset button.”
Scissors said the TPP political negotiations were so daunting for the US that no one has time to bother with Taiwan now and would not have time until the actual negotiations for the nation’s entry into the TPP have started.
Scissors said that TPP rules were still being negotiated and the big question is whether it ends up as an economically weak agreement that did not liberalize trade very much, or a strong agreement that did liberalize trade.
“The punch line is that it would be much better for Taiwan if TPP was weak,” he said.
“History tells me that Taiwan could not respond to a strong TPP without suffering economic damage,” Scissors said. “It would offer opportunities, but also threats.”
The main thing that would affect Taiwan’s membership would be China’s membership, he said.