Focus Taiwan | 1 July 2021
US senators urge gov’t to lay groundwork for FTA with Taiwan
Washington and Taipei, July 1 (CNA) Forty-two United States senators across party-lines have urged U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to lay the groundwork for negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with Taiwan.
In a joint letter to Tai on the eve of the 11th U.S.-Taiwan trade talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Wednesday, the U.S. senators highlighted the importance of such talks with Taiwan.
"We respectfully request that you prioritize these talks and take steps to begin laying the groundwork for negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA), or other preliminary agreement, with Taiwan," read the letter, initiated by Senators Marco Rubio and Mark Warner.
The letter, revealed Wednesday by Rubio on his official website, said beyond commerce and investment, trade talks with Taiwan are also of "great strategic importance."
"Maintaining U.S. economic influence in the region and reducing Taiwan’s dependence on China is essential to ensuring that the region remains free and open," the letter said.
Prominent U.S. senators who have signed the letter include Minority Whip John Thune, Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee Roger Wicker, and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee James Inhofe.
On Wednesday, Taiwan and the U.S. resumed their TIFA talks after a nearly five-year hiatus. The virtual meeting was led by Taiwan Deputy Trade Representative Yang Jen-ni (楊珍妮) and Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Terry McCartin.
The TIFA was signed by both sides in 1994 to advance trade and investment interests.
Since then, both sides alternately hosted a series of 10 high-level meetings, but the talks were suspended by the Trump administration, reportedly due to U.S. displeasure with Taiwan’s trade restrictions on some American goods, especially agricultural products.
At the start of this year, Taiwan’s government eased its longstanding ban against imported U.S. pork containing the leanness-enhancing additive ractopamine.
Observers in Taiwan believed that this was the major reason why the U.S. side agreed to resume the TIFA talks.
At the Central Executive Committee meeting of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) held Wednesday, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), the concurrent DPP Chair, described the resumption of the TIFA talks as a significant step in Taiwan-U.S. relations.
DPP spokeswoman Hsieh Pei-fen (謝佩芬) quoted Tsai as saying that the resumption of the TIFA talks at this time is helpful to Taiwan’s global positioning amid the restructuring of the international supply chains and may provide momentum to the negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement (BTA) with the U.S.
Taiwan’s Trade Representative John Deng (鄧振中), also said during a separate press conference that day that the TIFA meeting laid the groundworks for a Taiwan-U.S. BTA as the atmosphere in the meeting showed that both sides see each other as partners.
Deng added that the U.S. side has recognized Taiwan’s efforts to link itself with international trade standards in the way it handled pork import issues.
For the industrial sector in Taiwan, a BTA with the U.S. would bring positive impact to Taiwan’s economy, and encourage other economies to sign similar deals with Taiwan, industry representatives said.
Rock Hsu (許勝雄), chair of the Third Wednesday Club, an influential business organization, noted that Taiwan, as an island with an export-oriented economy, needs to take part in regional trade mechanisms to avoid isolation.
(By Stacy Hsu, Wen Kui-Hsiang, Tseng Chi-yi, Pan Tsu-yu and Emerson Lim)