June 17, 2024

Taiwan-US trade: Deal is key to countering diplomatic isolation, says Taipei’s top trade negotiator


Taipei
CNN

The signing of a trade agreement between Taiwan and the United States will play a key role in helping the island overcome its diplomatic isolation from China, according to Taiwan’s chief trade negotiator.

Taipei has described the project as the most comprehensive trade agreement between the United States and Taiwan since Washington transferred diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.

The agreement will allow Taipei to demonstrate its track record of following international trade rules, which will help enable trade agreements with other economies, John Deng told CNN in an interview.

“Our message is that Taiwan is a reliable trading partner. We respect intellectual property rights, we follow rules, and we are a transparent, democratic society,” he said.

“If we can have more international connections and attract more foreign investment, Taiwan will become stronger and much safer as well.”

But the deal is also drawn from the Chinese government, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory despite never having control over it. In a statement from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office in June, Beijing criticized Washington for “giving the wrong signal to Taiwan’s separatist forces.”

The self-governing island is facing international recognition issues due to growing pressure from Beijing, which sees the democratic island as its own territory that must be “unified”.

In recent years, China has staged massive military drills across the island, alienating some of its remaining diplomatic allies and blocking imports of certain goods from Taiwan.

After signing the first part of the trade agreement in June, the two sides plan to start talks on the remaining area of ​​negotiations, including agriculture and labor, as early as August, Deng said, adding that the goal is to complete the discussions by the end of the year.

The agreement comes amid Taiwan’s efforts to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a major free trade agreement that entered into force in 2018.

In March, Britain agreed to join the free trade bloc, which includes 11 inaugural members: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam.

Taiwan and mainland China have submitted applications to join the organization in 2021, and their applications are still being considered. To join, all member states will have to approve the application.

Deng says a US-Taiwan trade deal could pave the way for the island to join the CPPTT, although he also acknowledged that mainland China could use its economic influence to dissuade some members from considering Taiwan’s request.

“I will say we have a good chance,” he said. “The message we pass on to her [these countries] we want to follow the rule, and our track record is very clear. Please give us a chance.”

China has already expressed its opposition to Taiwan’s request.

“There is only one China in the world… we firmly oppose the Taiwan region from making any agreement or official organization,” foreign ministry spokesman Mao Ning said in March.

Deng said his team is “working hard” to overcome the pressure from China.

“The most frustrating thing that our society shares is that China is using its influence to push Taiwan outside of international organizations. We should have our voice,” he said.

“But if so [global democracies] We can prove to China that we can help each other, I think this sends a much stronger message to them that their behavior is not acceptable.”

As a member of the CPTPP most exports to other members will be eligible for tariff free trade, thereby removing barriers to businesses providing services in other jurisdictions.

The Taiwanese government has called the deal, which covers 500 million people and is worth 15% of gross domestic product, the “most important” trade deal in the region.

But Chinese pressure is not the only obstacle facing Taiwanese trade negotiators like Deng, as trade deals can be a politically sensitive issue on the island itself.

In 2014, a controversial service trade agreement between Taipei and Beijing – passed by the then-ruling Kuomintang – led to mass student protests, known as the Sunflower Movement.

The opponents expressed concern about Taiwan’s national security. Student protesters occupied the parliament building for weeks, leading to the suspension of the agreement.

In 2020, some lawmakers in Taiwan threw pig intestines in parliament to protest a referendum to ease restrictions on pork imports from the United States. They opposed it because it would allow meat products containing ractopamine, an animal feed additive common in the United States. The referendum was finally passed.

– CNN’s Will Ripley and John Mees contributed reporting.

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