The US should open the door to Taiwan for future membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), strategist and international development expert Daniel Runde said.
With the nation’s presidential elections coming up next year — and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) “increasingly likely to win” — Taipei “wants strong signals of support from the US,” Runde said.
Writing in Forbes magazine, Runde, the director of the US Leadership and Development project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said that Taiwan’s position between China and the US “is only becoming more precarious.”
“One way we could support Taiwan would be to include them in [the] TPP,” he wrote.
“Taiwan is not currently part of the agreement, and it will be hard to include them at this juncture, but we should be prepared,” Runde said.
Runde said that TPP membership would require an uphill battle, because Taiwan has “consistently disappointed” the US on trade related matters.
“High-profile disputes over barriers to US pork and beef have been sticking points in trade relations and make Taiwan’s inclusion in the already politically fraught trade deal more difficult,” he said.
“This is without mentioning complications associated with Chinese political opposition, which, even if managed effectively, would necessitate including Taiwan as a signatory economy, as opposed to country,” he added.
Runde said Taiwan is going to have to negotiate in parallel with the ongoing TPP process and demonstrate willingness to make significant compromises. As China becomes wealthier and more powerful, the space in which Taiwan can operate economically, diplomatically and otherwise, is shrinking, he said.
“Countries are hesitant to openly embrace Taiwan for fear of economic reprisal from China,” he said.
According to Runde, Taiwan is more economically enmeshed with China than ever and, regardless of the changing global landscape, the US should maintain close ties and leverage the relationship with China as a means of improving Washington’s own diplomacy.
More than 3 million Chinese tourists visited Taiwan last year and were able to experience democracy in action, and see freedom and liberty were not at odds with Taiwan’s Chinese cultural identity, he said.
“Taiwan is a vision of China we should all wish for, and living proof that China can achieve its goals of growth and stability in a politically pluralistic setting,” he said.
“It’s important that this model continues to stand, and Taiwan maintain the status quo until there is the possibility for reconciliation that does not threaten democracy there,” he said.
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