AmCham pushes for direct cross-straits links



Washington, June 8 (CNA) — Officials of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (AmCham) said in Washington, D.C. Thursday that setting up direct cross-Taiwan Strait links could fast-track a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and Taiwan.

AmCham President Thomas Johnson said at a press conference that direct links would be a fast-track way for Taiwan to sign a free trade agreement with the United States. "Such a move would help shore up support in Washington, which has been lukewarm to Taiwan’s request to negotiate an FTA deal," Johnson said. "A U.S.-Taiwan FTA would make Taiwan a springboard for the United States heading to the huge Chinese market, creating a win-win-win situation for Taiwan, China and the United States," he added.

The AmCham president, however, said that he saw only a less than 50 percent chance that such an agreement can be signed within the next year given the current circumstances.

The Trade Promotion Authority, which authorizes the U.S. president to negotiate trade deals with other countries, expires in July next year. Any FTAs not completed by then would have to be re-negotiated, Johnson added. "If Taiwan responds with sufficient political will, AmCham stands ready to offer its support and assistance to help make an FTA a reality," Johnson vowed.

He added, however, that before Taiwan begins any FTA negotiations with the United States, Taiwan should face and tackle several issues first, including the need for more political transparency, deeper IPR protection, improved health care policies and continued financial reform.

Johnson made the remarks at the press conference after he and an AmCham mission discussed AmCham’s newly-published White Paper on Taiwan with U.S. government officials, members of Congress and think tanks in Washington, D.C. in a "door knocking" tour. The policy paper of the AmCham, which represents more than 500 companies, also urged Taiwan to push on for an FTA with the United States.

AmCham Executive Director Richard Vuylsteke said the U.S. companies not only maintain business and trade operations in Taiwan, they are also eyeing the even bigger market across the Taiwan Strait in China. "Should there be cross-strait links, a lot of business interest will surge on the U.S. side for an FTA for Taiwan, " Vuylsteke said.

Quoting U.S. deputy trade representative Karan Bhatia as saying in May after visiting Taiwan that he saw little chance for an FTA between Taiwan and the U.S. within the next year, Vuylsteke said U.S.-Taiwan FTA talks would be a long process, but the AmCham would rather expect optimistically its happening.

(By Winnie Chi and Deborah Kuo)

source: CNA