Taiwan is under no illusions it can quickly sign a long-hoped-for free-trade deal with the US, but feels when the time is right “success will flow naturally,” the nation’s lead trade negotiator said yesterday.
Taiwan has long sought a bilateral trade deal with the US.
The government on Jan. 1 lifted a ban on imports of pork containing a leanness-enhancing additive, ractopamine, removing a major stumbling block to an agreement with Washington.
Photo: Ann Wang, Reuters
However, US President Joe Biden has only just assumed office, and his nominee for US secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, told lawmakers this week they would prioritize domestic investment in workers and infrastructure before embarking on any new free-trade agreements.
Minister Without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中), who leads trade talks, said that the government well knew that for the US to sign free-trade agreements with anyone was a major issue, especially with a new administration in office.
“We absolutely understand US politics and we do not have any unrealistic fantasies,” he said. “The new government has its priorities and of course we need to understand that.”
Deng said he was confident a deal would happen eventually, pointing to the pork decision and support for an agreement among US lawmakers.
“We have always thought that this is a matter of ‘when conditions are right, success will flow naturally,’” he said.
Trade-dependent Taiwan is also angling to join the revamped version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 11-country Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), signed in 2018, without the US.
“This is a very high-priority project for us, but we also understand this involves lots of other countries, 11 of them, so we’re not willing to set a timetable or a target,” Deng said.
While Taiwan is a member of the WTO, many countries are wary of signing trade deals with the tech powerhouse fearing objections from China, although Taiwan does have free-trade deals with Singapore and New Zealand.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) this week told Britain’s newly appointed de facto ambassador in Taipei that she hoped they could begin talks on a free-trade or bilateral investment agreement.
The UK has been looking for such deals since leaving the EU.
“There have been no negotiations, but the British side knows Taiwan’s interest,” Deng said, when asked about the chances of a deal with Britain.
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