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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Taiwan has its work cut out to join US-led TPP

Taiwan has its work cut out to join US-led TPP

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On Tuesday, Republican Donald Trump was elected US president. For Taiwanese, the most important thing about the election results is their potential effects on Taiwan-US relations, specifically on the US’ commitment to maintain peace and security in the Taiwan Strait and to provide arms to Taiwan, as well as on Taipei’s chances of joining the second round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Recent months have seen increased political tension between the US and China as the two compete for dominance in East Asia. Meanwhile, the Philippines’ shift toward Beijing has created a breach in the first island chain, in which it occupies a strategically important location. This could prompt the US to re-evaluate Taiwan’s strategic importance and step up cooperation with Taipei.

On the other hand, Trump is highly likely to disappoint many Asian nations. President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration has been closely following the development of the TPP, as Taiwan hopes to take part in the negotiations. While US President Barack Obama is urging the US Congress to ratify the TPP before Trump takes office on Jan. 20, his chances of succeeding are slim.

The problem is that if Trump wants neither the TPP nor the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), how will the US, Japan and the EU compete with China in the global market? Without the partnerships, Western democracies would be left with no choice but to watch the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership take center stage, and eventually Beijing would be calling the shots on global trade.

That is why Trump must make clear his trade policies in his inaugural address. If Congress does not pass the TPP and TTIP agreements, the US, Japan and other democracies in Europe would see China become even more powerful as it gains control of the global economy and trade.

Tsai’s administration, in a bid to increase Taiwan’s chances of joining the TPP talks, should focus on three areas:

First, the government should check with the members of the US Congressional Taiwan Caucus and members of the US House and Senate to discern how many supporters Taiwan has in Congress and make an effort to increase that number. Taiwanese officials based in the US should try to convince members of Congress to support Taiwan’s participation in the TPP talks.

Second, the government should communicate with the Office of the US Trade Representative to facilitate negotiations on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Only after Taiwan and the US make significant progress on TIFA will it be possible for the office to support Taiwan’s participation in the TPP talks.

Third, the government should urge the Customs Administration, banks, financial institutions, insurance companies and trading administrations, as well as private businesses, to become more liberal and international. Until Taiwanese industry can show that it is truly liberal and international, it has no right to complain about other nations’ trade obstacles directed at Taiwan.

Finally, the key to securing better arms deals with the US is knowing that Washington tends to keep certain weapons and high-tech technology to itself unless a buyer has developed the same or similar technology.

Since she took office, Tsai has stressed the need for decreasing Taiwan’s reliance on foreign arms imports and domestically manufacturing aircraft and submarines. Why not build one or two training jets and submarines to show the US what Taiwan can do in an attempt to obtain better technology from the Trump administration?

Edward Chen is a chair professor in Chinese Culture University’s Department of Political Science.

Translated by Tu Yu-an

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2016/11/13

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