Thu, Jun 23, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan’s path to TPP is ‘complicated’: US expert

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

China would mount a “pretty serious opposition” if Taiwan tries to join the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade group on its own, a US expert said on Tuesday.

Former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Richard Bush said that membership would fuel Taiwan’s future competitiveness, “but the road from here to there is going to be complicated.”

Bush, who is now director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies, told a seminar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that the economic interests of Taiwan and the US were overlapping and convergent — providing all the more reason to work together and facilitate Taiwan’s entry into the TPP.

Bush reminded the seminar that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is a former trade lawyer who knows how to balance trade policy and politics and he said there was no one more qualified to move Taiwan into the TPP.

He said it would be necessary for Taiwan’s leadership to build a broad social consensus and make advanced preparations.

Getting Taiwan into the TPP during the second round of negotiations would involve Taipei demonstrating that it is prepared to make difficult concessions, get them through the Legislative Yuan and properly implement them, he said, but even then the “obstacle of China” would remain.

Bush said China’s opposition would be even more serious because the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is in power.

He indicated that it might be easier if China were to join the TPP, but that Chinese membership could be a long way off.

Bush said that Taiwan might develop countermeasures to deflect a Chinese campaign aimed at pressuring some or all of the existing TPP members to block Taiwan.

He said Taiwan might encourage those countries likely to support its membership application on its own merits, and try to incentivize the other countries to simply keep quiet.

“It will be very hard to do,” Bush said.

Taiwan External Trade Development Council chairman Francis Liang, who is in Washington to lead a business delegation at an investment summit, stressed that Taiwan was now the US’ ninth-largest trading partner.

“The US is an indispensable trading partner for Taiwan,” he said.

Liang said the US had played a crucial role in every stage of Taiwan’s economic development.

“We have so much in common and so much to accomplish together,” he said.

Former White House coordinator for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Matthew Goodman told the trade seminar that Taiwan would benefit “tremendously” from being a member of the TPP.

He said that membership would embed Taiwan more deeply in regional supply chains, drive the domestic reform process, reduce dependence on China, help the island shape the rules of the regional economic order, and become more integrated with the US and Japan.

Goodman said Taiwan was critical to US supply chain management.

However, he said that there would be no “free pass” and Taiwan would have to meet some tough conditions if it wanted to join the TPP.

Goodman cited long-standing agricultural issues and said there were technical barriers to trade that would have to be removed.

He said that Taiwan’s regulatory environment had been a problem, as had foreign-exchange issues.

Goodman said that from the US perspective there was a “trust gap and a credibility gap” and that the burden of proof was on Taiwan to show that it is willing to tackle these problems.

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