Marco Rubio urges US official to open free trade talks with Taiwan

Taiwan is 10th largest trade partner, has proven to be a 'partner of the first order': Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday (Sept. 10) urging him to send Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment Keith Krach to Taiwan in order to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement between Taipei and Washington.

Rubio started the letter by mentioning Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) recent decision to lift import restrictions on U.S. pork with ractopamine and beef from cattle over 30 months old — restrictions that the senator described as “the sole obstacle to pursuing a free trade agreement (FTA) between the U.S. and Taiwan.” He then pointed out the importance of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific by maintaining the U.S.' economic influence and reducing Taiwan’s dependence on trade with China.

“Taiwan is our 10th largest trade partner and they have proven themselves to be a partner of the first order,” Rubio said. “An FTA negotiated with Taiwan could serve as a model for what a high-standard trade agreement should look like.”

The Florida senator said sending Under Secretary Krach would show Washington’s commitment to achieving such a trade deal. He also said it would be fitting to send a senior U.S. representative to attend late President Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) farewell service, which is scheduled for Sept. 19.

As for Taiwan's lifting of restrictions on U.S. agricultural products, Rubio said: “The U.S. should stand behind our friends when they move in a positive direction and create the conditions for enhanced trade relations.”