Taiwan’s plan to build its own submarines might have received a boost from the US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference that concluded on Tuesday.
“The program now has a trajectory to it that is increasingly encouraging,” US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers said.
Speaking at the closing press conference, he said that Taiwan’s defense policy was moving toward increased domestic involvement and development.
“That direction fits with the notion of Taiwan’s indigenous submarine program,” Hammond-Chambers said.
He said that the scope of the program would be determined by the next presidents in both nations.
“We are just starting a four-year program with a relatively low amount of money, so the pace of this will be relatively slow, but the door has been opened,” Hammond-Chambers said.
He said that the presence of 19 Taiwanese companies at this year’s conference — the most ever — was “extremely encouraging.”
The US business community would now focus on broadening the number of companies it works with in Taiwan not just on the submarine program, but also on cyberwarfare issues, surface warfare, and the indigenous development of training aircraft and jet fighters, he said.
“We are looking at all of Taiwan’s defense requirements through an increasingly broad prism of domestic development,” Hammond-Chambers said.
He said the large Taiwanese delegation had been very active seeking out potential US business partners during the conference.
“Indigenous development is an essential part of Taiwan’s future defense and defense policy,” he added.
He was also optimistic that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal would eventually be passed by the US Congress and that Taiwan would gain membership in the second round of negotiations.
“I cannot conceive of Taiwan outside of the TPP for economic and strategic reasons,” Hammond-Chambers said.
He said there were still some significant economic and political issues for Taiwan to deal with, particularly in agriculture, financial transactions, mergers and acquisitions, the ability of capital to flow in and out of the nation freely, and access to investment in certain areas.
However, he insisted that he had been assured by the White House that China would not be a consideration in assessing Taiwan’s candidacy as a member of the TPP.
Hammond-Chambers said it is likeley that China would try to pressure other TPP members to blackball Taiwan’s entry bid.
“There will be hard negotiations, and securing Taiwan’s entry is going to require leadership from the US and Japan, and from other economies,” he said.
“The Chinese will look for a country they can pick off and pressure,” he added.
Hammond-Chambers said that the US business community should focus on making the case for Taiwan’s inclusion in the TPP.