TPP membership is a must, former AIT chairman says

Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Apr 11, 2013 - Page 3

Taiwan needs to continue to work seriously toward joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) if it wants to retain its economic competitiveness, former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairman Richard Bush said yesterday.

This is vital because the proposed free-trade alliance of Pacific-Rim countries could better integrate the nation into the global economy and produce the structural adjustments it needs to enhance its economic power, Bush said at a seminar in Taipei.

The move for Taiwan may not be easy due to opposition from Beijing, he said, but it is important for the government to make the case that it is necessary for the nation’s development.

“This is not so much an issue of political dignity; it is an issue of economic prosperity,” Bush said a day after the launch of a Chinese-language edition of his new book titled Uncharted Strait: The Future of China-Taiwan Relations.

As Taiwan is entering a transition period of social and economic development, it will need to establish a knowledge-based economy in line with world trends, Bush said.

“Taiwan will face some difficult challenges even if China were not such an important factor, even if China did not exist,” the former diplomat said.

Those challenges include a growing central government budget deficit, unemployment and income inequality — which will require structural reforms, Bush said.

Through entry to the TPP Taiwan could establish stronger ties with its trade partners and reduce its economic dependence on China, he added.

However, such a “self-strengthening” process would require Taiwan to further liberalize its markets through methods such as eliminating protectionism and allowing greater market access, he said.

Bush reiterated his stance that the current situation on the Korean Peninsula has been limited to a “psychological test of wills” between North Korea and the US.

The real danger is what the North might be mulling — limited military attacks against a target under South Korea’s control, he said.

Such provocative action could result in retaliation by the South and lead to greater uncertainty and turmoil in the region, he said.