Former US diplomats urge Taiwan-US free trade deal

William Stanton, Stephen Young urge more action towards Taiwan-US FTA at conference

L-R: John Tkacik, Stephen Young, I-Chung Lai, Russell Hsiao, William Stanton.

L-R: John Tkacik, Stephen Young, I-Chung Lai, Russell Hsiao, William Stanton. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Two former U.S. diplomats and a host of experts advocated for greater effort towards signing of a potential Taiwan-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) yesterday.

Former U.S. diplomats and heads of the American Institute in Taiwan, William Stanton and Stephen Young, called for both Taiwan and the U.S. to strive towards a trade deal, pointing to the broader array of strategic and tertiary benefits beyond economics.

The second annual joint conference by Taiwan ThinkTank and U.S.-based Global Taiwan Institute was held in Taipei yesterday, in which a host of experts spoke about U.S-Taiwan relations, and how to face China’s sharp power.

Young said in his conference paper that the U.S. should increase its efforts to sign an FTA with Taiwan as soon as possible, reported CNA.

Stanton responded to a question by saying that the “U.S. government is not working hard enough” on a potential trade deal, and should consider the broader strategic benefits beyond trade and investment.

Mark Stokes, Executive Director of U.S. think tank Project 2049 Institute also said that the U.S. and Taiwan should sign an FTA as soon as possible, and insisted on a “fair” deal over a “free” one. He argued that an FTA is crucial to maintain U.S.-Taiwan relations in the future, and is consistent with the political interests of the U.S.

John Tkacik, Director of Future Asia Project at U.S. think tank International Assessment and Strategy Center said that the U.S. should give more weight to economic interests rather than political concerns on some issues.

Tkacik said relaxing of Taiwan’s rules on pork imports is a precondition of a potential Taiwan-U.S. trade deal, and added he was unsure if the Taiwan government was determined enough to overcome domestic interests on this issue.

A potential FTA is likely to require Taiwan to relax import restrictions on pork and other meat products, which some consider an obstacle, as wellbeing of Taiwanese farmers and food safety are significant concerns for Taiwanese.

In regards to this, Young said that Taiwan must deal with pressure from its agricultural sector for an FTA to succeed.

Nien Su, former Chief Economic Advisor for the U.S. House of Representatives said that summer 2019 is an ideal time for negotiations to pick up speed, before the U.S. presidential election which is scheduled for late 2020.

Young believes that the U.S. should support Taiwan’s international participation in organizations like APEC, ASEAN, and WTO, as well as membership of the CPTPP trade agreement. Young went on to encourage more senior U.S. officials to visit Taiwan.

Young said greater Taiwan-U.S. ties will not only inspire the people of Taiwan, but will also demonstrate the U.S.’s commitment to a free and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.