US-Taiwan trade ties pick up: Hammond-Chambers

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Sat, Sep 12, 2015 - Page 3

Following a period of “treading water,” the US-Taiwan business relationship is picking up again, a leading trade expert said.

“Both countries are focused on China, but there is a palpable sense that the bilateral relationship is pivoting towards some big goals,” US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers said.

He told a press conference this week to release a new business report that he was “enthused” for what that might mean for peace and security in the Taiwan Strait.

Hammond-Chambers said that with Taiwan positioned for second-round entry to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal “we are beginning to see a path forward where Taiwan can have economic equities outside of its China interests.”

He said that Taiwan’s problems with US pork and beef must be resolved before Washington would enter bilateral TPP negotiations.

Hammond-Chambers said the first round of TPP negotiations was now down to a few key issues and it was possible the trade deal would be launched soon with second-round entry talks for Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines following quickly.

He said that solving the agricultural issues might involve “domestic heartburn” for Taiwan, but it was vital.

The new report said that US businesses were encouraging the government to continue to move forward on reforms that would bring Taiwan “in line with forward-leaning international practices.”

The two countries should also move on bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks and should fast-track the signing of a Bilateral Investment Agreement.

“For Taiwan, participation in the TPP is of crucial importance,” the report said.

China now accounts for more than 40 percent of Taiwan’s total trade and TPP would help restore greater balance.

“If Taiwan remains absent from regional trade agreements, it may be drawn even further into China’s economic orbit, to the detriment of the business and national security interests of its other trading partners, including the US,” the report said.

It said that for Taiwan to increase the odds of TPP acceptance, it has to make a concerted effort to address outstanding issues with each of the 12 founding members of the agreement.

“Taiwan can jumpstart its application by identifying policy gaps, making amendments to domestic policies and offering an overall improved regulatory regime that meets TPP standards,” it said.