Time is right for Taiwan and US to negotiate trade agreement: US think tank

Tsai could be feeling the pressure to accomplish a major achievement in the months ahead to prove she still retains enough momentum to win a nationwide election

NCAFP representatives visit Tsia Nov. 30, 2018 (Photo: Office of the President)

NCAFP representatives visit Tsia Nov. 30, 2018 (Photo: Office of the President)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Now could be the time for the U.S. and Taiwan to negotiate a bilateral trade agreement, according to a report published Jan. 14 by the U.S. think tank National Committee on Foreign Policy (NCAFP).

The report, authored by former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairman Raymond Burghardt, details the findings and recommendations by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP) during its annual fact-finding trip to Taipei, Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo between Nov. 27 and Dec. 11, 2018.

Three days before the group’s arrival in Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took a severe drubbing in the nine-in-one local elections. The opposition Kuomintang’s sweeping victory is considered more a demonstration of disappointment with the ruling party than a vote in support of the opposition party, says the report.

The report also points out the acknowledgement by analysts and senior DPP politicians that the economic consequences of the breakdown in cross-strait relations since Tsai took office could be a reason that swung some voters.

With the pressure from Beijing expected to ramp up on the Tsai administration, signs of US support for Taiwan could help to keep up morale among the people of Taiwan, the analysis said. NCAFP suggested now could be an opportune time for Taiwan to seek a bilateral trade accord with the U.S. If such an objective is unattainable now, the two sides can instead work to ink a bilateral investment agreement.

However, the report urges both sides to exert caution in dealing with the issue, as neither sides would like to see such measures “escalate into a crisis if Beijing feels compelled to respond.”