Hammond-Chambers: Support for TPP could ease pressure on Taiwan
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-04-03 04:27 PM
Rupert Hammond-Chambers, President of the US-Taiwan Business Council and Managing Director at BowerGroupAsia, suggested in a Wall Street Journal article Wednesday that the US can do much to help settle the turmoil over Taiwan’s economy and cross-strait ties with China by lending more support to the island in its bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Hammond-Chambers called Friday’s scheduled meeting in Washington on trade relations between representatives of the governments of the US and Taiwan an ‘unusual opportunity’ for the US to ‘solidify its slowly diminishing ability to promote security and liberty overseas’ by bolstering its bilateral trade relations with Taiwan.

Hammond-Chambers notes that the meeting could be the occasion for announcing the start of negotiations on a Bilateral Investment Agreement, a step which would put the US in a position to support Taiwan’s campaign for a spot in the growing 12-member TPP. Accepting Taiwan to the partnership would add a valuable high-tech export economy to the trade bloc, and it would also provide an outlet to Taiwan in seeking to avoid over-relying on trade with China to prop up its flagging economy.

The unprecedented student occupation of the Legislative Yuan and Sunday’s massive turnout for a demonstration against the Cross-strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) have pointed up the dangers inherent in President Ma Ying-jeou’s relentless campaign to strengthen economic ties between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. The first six years of Ma’s two tenures as president have seen a relaxation in tension between the two sides, but that could change quickly if Ma and his administration do not find a way to settle the standoff at the Legislative Yuan in a peaceful way.

Ma has sought economic liberalization with China, says Hammond-Chambers, so that he will then be free to pursue more liberal ties with Taiwan's other principal trading partners. Otherwise, the thinking goes, China will use its economic and political prowess to pressure other nations to shy away from expanding their relations with Taiwan.

This has led to the current situation where trade with China is booming but Taiwan's ties with existing and potential trade partners have expanded only marginally. Ma's critics have been very vocal in pointing out their concerns over the recent path of economic development and where it will lead in the future.

Ma’s strategy since his inauguration in 2008 has been to move Taiwan toward China economically and culturally in order to provide a platform for dealing with the issue of sovereignty, a sticking point that goes all the way back to the post World War Two period when Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT government relocated to Taiwan. Unlike the majority of people in Taiwan, who are content to main the island’s present autonomous status, China is committed to unification with Taiwan by whatever means necessary including military force.

Hammond-Chambers opines that China will probably wait until the next presidential election in Taiwan in 2016 to assess the situation and decide on future action. He adds that whoever the next president may be, he or she will never have the same amount of space and time that China has afforded Ma Ying-jeou in cross-strait relations.

Hammond Chambers concludes by noting that if the US will publicly declare its backing for Taiwan in its drive to develop wider bilateral and multilateral economic relations around the world, it could eventually contribute greatly to maintaining peace and stability between Taiwan and China. It would re-set the heated debate on China policy in Taiwan and expand the focus on trade relations from a narrow dependence on China to potential markets and trade partners around the world as the global economy struggles to regain its footing.

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