Business representatives have praised the first Taiwan-US Economic Prosperity Partnership (EPP) Dialogue, with many anticipating benefits for the semiconductor sector, but said that negotiating a bilateral trade agreement should remain the top priority.
Taiwan and the US on Friday held their first EPP talks in person in Washington and virtually, and afterwards signed a five-year memorandum of understanding and established teams to tackle issues related to global health security, science and technology, infrastructure and energy, supply chain restructuring, investment screening and 5G.
They also released a fact sheet highlighting areas of planned economic cooperation, which drew a lot of attention locally for its confirmation that “strategic cooperation on the semiconductor industry is a mutual priority given its potential to generate significant, long-term benefits for both economies.”
National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises chairman Li Yu-chia (李育家) said the reference showed that Taiwan’s semiconductor industry is not only vital to the nation’s economy, but also a major asset to the US, and could spur bilateral cooperation in other industries.
Ray Yang (楊瑞臨), director of the Industrial Technology Research Institute’s Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center, said that closer cooperation with the US could help Taiwanese semiconductor firms address their talent shortages and gain access to new clients.
In addition to attracting US engineering talent, the companies could also get involved in the development of defense technologies, an industry in which the US is a global leader, Yang said.
However, others said that the memorandum and the largely aspirational commitments would produce few tangible benefits.
“If the US really wants to help Taiwan, it should sign a bilateral trade or investment agreement,” Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce chairman Lin Por-fong (林伯豐) said.
Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) said that while “any progress in the bilateral relationship is a good thing,” the government should avoid using the dialogue to “score political points.”
Economic talks conducted with the US Department of State are not the same as trade negotiations with the US Trade Representative’s Office, Chu said, adding that without achieving trade objectives, the significance of the dialogue is mainly political.
However, the government said in response that the EPP Dialogue was never intended to touch on trade issues, which are handled through the US-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement.
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