A Taiwan-US FTA is a win-win

  • Post category:Op-Ed
Minze Chien, President of FAPA

Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) is to be Taiwan’s next representative to the US.

Hsiao is well versed in international affairs and Taiwan-US relations. In her days as a student in the US, she was a member of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) and served as chief executive of the Democratic Progressive Party’s US mission. She is familiar with a broad spectrum of Taiwanese affairs in the US.

FAPA hopes that Hsiao, after taking up her new post, would continue to deepen and normalize relations between Taiwan and the US, and that she would try to get a free-trade agreement (FTA) signed during her time in the position.

A Taiwan-US FTA is in the best interest of both nations.

Taiwan would benefit in at least three ways: An agreement would boost Taiwan-US trade and investment, raise Taiwan’s strategic position in the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy and boost international recognition of Taiwan.

US-China relations are deteriorating because of the trade dispute and the COVID-19 pandemic. China’s worsening investment environment is expected to incentivize investors from the US and other countries to accelerate their exodus from China, causing global supply chains to be restructured.

A Taiwan-US FTA would not only upgrade trade partnerships and attract foreign investment to Taiwan, but also help the nation to join regional economic integration initiatives, such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

China’s expansion of its economic and military influence has badly upset regional stability and led the US to view China as a strategic competitor.

To prevent China from stealing advanced US technology and keep Chinese-made 5G communications products from threatening US national security, the US has increased its cooperation with Taiwan’s technological and military industries.

The US has persuaded Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co to construct a factory in the US. There is also a plan to set up a service center for US F-16 warplanes in Taiwan. An FTA would bolster bilateral cooperation in sensitive technological and military industries, and promote Taiwan’s trade and strategic status in the Indo-Pacific region.

An FTA could also boost US recognition of Taiwan as a nation. Ever since the US broke up diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979, the US and Taiwan have only maintained unofficial relations, with all bilateral agreements being signed by the American Institute in Taiwan.

However, negotiating an FTA would be the responsibility of the Office of the US Trade Representative.

An FTA would only come into effect after being approved by both houses of the US Congress and signed into law by the US president. It would be an official nation-to-nation agreement concluded by the US and Taiwan governments, giving it the force of a treaty under international law.

FAPA and Taiwan-friendly members of the US Congress have long called for the US and Taiwan to sign an FTA. As US-China trade tensions escalate and the Taiwan-US partnership grows ever closer, now is the perfect opportunity to negotiate and sign an FTA.

Taiwan — which has just been declared free of foot-and-mouth disease, so that it can start exporting pork again — should approach the issues of US pork and beef pragmatically, and based on international food safety standards.

At the same time as safeguarding public health, the government should strive to reach a Taiwan-US FTA that would serve both nations’ economic and strategic interests, and upgrade Taiwan’s international status.

Translated by Julian Clegg
This article is first published in Taipei Times (2020/7/2)