Hyde urges start of FTA talks between US, Taiwan

Taipei Times

Hyde urges start of FTA talks between US, Taiwan

PARTING SHOT: The outgoing chairman of the US House International Relations Committee believes a Free Trade Agreement will have more than just economic benefits

By Charles Snyder, Staff Reporter in Washington

29 September 2006

In one of his last official acts as chairman of the US House International Relations Committee, Henry Hyde, one of Taiwan’s leading champions in Congress, has urged the administration of US President George W. Bush to begin talks on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Taiwan "as soon as possible."

In a letter to US Trade Representative Susan Schwab made public on Wednesday, Hyde said: "Swift movement toward this goal would advance our mutual economic and security interests."

"While it promotes economic growth, an FTA would also bolster Taiwan’s democracy and its role as a model for other Asian nations seeking to build democratic institutions and further the rule of law," Hyde wrote.

"In addition, enhanced trade relations would prevent Taiwan from being marginalized by regional FTA’s to which it is not a member," he wrote.

Hyde, 83, an Illinois Republican, will retire this year after serving in Congress for 32 years. He has been on the International Relations Committee since 1982, the past five years as chairman. The 109th Congress is scheduled to adjourn this weekend, and, aside from a possible lame-duck session in November, the 110th Congress will convene next January.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington expressed "profound gratitude" to Hyde for sending the letter.

Hyde recalled that he had joined 63 other House members as a co-sponsor of a resolution earlier this year that urged the administration to proceed with FTA negotiations with Taiwan.

That bill, which was introduced in February, was not passed, having been held up in the House Ways and Means Committee.

In his letter, a copy of which was delivered to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Hyde wrote that US interests in Asia "have been well-served by our close partnership with Taiwan."

He noted such "milestones" as the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act and Taiwan’s accession to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and the WTO with US support.

He also ticked off statistics showing Taiwan’s important trade relations with the US, and cited comments by Bush last November praising Taiwan’s democracy and holding it up as an example for the rest of the Asia region.

"Yet, regrettably, recent regional developments have the potential to undermine this progress, with significant implications for US interests," Hyde wrote.

In this regard, he noted that with the end of the Cold War, Beijing has been able to redeploy its military capabilities away from the northern border toward the east coast across from Taiwan.

This "dramatic increase" in China’s armaments directed at Taiwan "pose a clear threat to Taiwan’s security," he said.

He also cited China’s adoption of the "Anti-Secession" Law last year and moves by China to isolate Taiwan on the international economic scene by excluding Taipei from regional trade agreements.

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