Taiwan has been put on equal footing with the US regarding potential trade cooperation by the second round of negotiations under the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade, Minister Without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中) said on Tuesday.
Taiwan had previously responded passively regarding trade deals with the US, but the latest four-day round of negotiations, which ended on Tuesday, put the two countries on an equal footing, Deng told a post-meeting news conference in Taipei.
Citing Section 301 of the US’ Trade Act, Deng said that Taiwan had “passed the phase” during which it could be subjected to trade retaliation from the US, which would greatly increase the scope of cooperation.
After the meeting, the Office of Trade Negotiations said that top officials from both sides were “satisfied about the negotiation and the results.”
It expects the two sides within a few weeks to sign an early harvest agreement on trade facilitation, anti-corruption, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), good regulatory practices and domestic regulation of services.
The agreement would provide guidance on efforts in those fields, Deng said, adding that hopefully the work would bring greater stability and administrative transparency, and businesses would have a more open channel to voice their opinions.
Deng also expressed hope that effort would be made to improve communication channels between the two sides, and that a dialogue mechanism would be established to discuss the formulation of rules for SMEs and the service industry.
The agreement would establish a permanent communication mechanism between SMEs on both sides, institutionalizing and increasing the frequency of exchanges, Deputy Trade Representative Yang Jen-ni (楊珍妮) said.
Meanwhile, good regulatory practices could be achieved by encouraging greater public participation in policymaking to create a fair environment in which to conduct business and decrease legal compliance costs, which would send a positive message to prospective investors and the international community about doing business in Taiwan, Yang said.
Efforts to achieve this aim would also help bring Taiwan’s rules and regulations more in line with international trends, she said.
Domestic regulation of services stems from good regulatory practice, she said, adding that the government would need to familiarize businesses seeking to expand into the US market with the rules to obtain operating licenses, which would be consistent with its goal of helping Taiwanese businesses internationalize.
Joint efforts would see the two countries jointly establish a paradigm to counter corruption and help remove obstacles stemming from corruption that hamper the overseas operations of Taiwanese businesses, she said.
Objectives laid out during the talks largely conformed to Taiwan’s anti-corruption policy, so the nation would not be significantly burdened by the changes, she added.
The two sides are to finalize at upcoming negotiations details measures to deny safe haven for foreign public servants charged with corruption, Yang said.
The US Trade Representative said in a separate statement that both sides “reached consensus in a number of areas and pledged to maintain an ambitious negotiating schedule in the months ahead to continue this momentum.”
The initiative was launched in June last year in the wake of Taiwan’s exclusion from the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). The first round of physical talks was held in New York on Nov. 8 and 9.
Before the talks, Taiwanese officials said that the nation’s goal is to complete negotiations before the APEC annual meeting slated for later this year.
Roy Lee (李淳), senior deputy executive director at the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, said that topics covered during negotiations are also discussed in free-trade agreements and the results achieved through such talks would be conducive to signing deals with other countries.
Prior to the negotiations with the US, Taiwan had waited more than 20 years for such an opportunity, Lee said.
With the US “vouching” for Taiwan’s readiness to adopt high standards to facilitate trade and good regulatory practices, it would also aid Taiwan’s bid to join the Japan-led Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, he said.
Similarly, it could help equip Taiwan with the credentials to participate in the IPEF, even only as an observer, he added.
As a short-term goal, the government could contemplate how to make the merits of the early harvest agreement clear to the business sector by elaborating on the details once they are made public, Lee said.
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