House bill, senator call for US-Taiwan trade agreement

Growing chorus in Congress backs bilateral trade deal between US, Taiwan

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American and Taiwanese flags. 

American and Taiwanese flags.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Both a House bill and a senator on Wednesday (July 29) called for a bilateral trade agreement between the U.S. and Taiwan.

On Wednesday, Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL) introduced a bill primarily aimed at authorizing the U.S. to use military force in the event that China attacks Taiwan, but it also advocated a bilateral trade deal between the U.S. and Taiwan. That same day, Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer urging him to begin negotiations on a U.S.-Taiwan trade pact.

Section 202 of the bill introduced by Yoho, the Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act, states that the U.S. trade representative should enter into negotiations with counterparts from Taiwan on setting up a bilateral trade agreement between the two countries. The bill stipulates that negotiations should begin within 180 days of the passage of the legislation.

During an online interview with the US-Taiwan Business Council that same day, Gardner revealed that he had sent a letter to Lighthizer in which he exhorted the trade representative to "immediately initiate meaningful negotiations between the United States and Taiwan on a comprehensive Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA)." Gardner pointed out that US$95.4 billion of trade was exchanged between the two countries in 2018, that the TAIPEI Act calls for a free trade agreement between the nations, and that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had endorsed a U.S.-Taiwan BTA before the American Chamber of Commerce in 2019.

Gardner lamented that despite the "most favorable environment for U.S.-Taiwan bilateral ties in recent memory," there has been no significant progress on trade deal talks. Gardner closed by emphasizing that he looks forward to cooperating with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on making such an agreement "a reality" in the 116th US Congress.

In response to Gardner's letter, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) said that the ministry would like to thank the senator for backing the establishment of a bilateral trade agreement between Taiwan and the U.S. Ou said that Gardner has been "a long-term friend of our country in the U.S. Congress who has continued to provide concrete actions to help Taiwan on various issues."

Ou pledged that MOFA and Taiwan's representative office in the U.S. will continue to hold talks with the U.S. in Taipei and Washington on the signing of a bilateral trade agreement between the two countries. Ou then expressed the hope that the two sides can start a dialogue on a BTA between the two nations as soon as possible.