Business council urges US to help bring calm to Taiwan political storm
April 4, 2014, 12:10 am TWN
TAIPEI--The United States should declare its support for Taiwan's bilateral and multilateral economic ambitions during upcoming talks in Washington, the chief of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council has said, adding that the move would "lend invaluable support" to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
By making that declaration, "the United States would help ensure that Taiwan's domestic debate on China policy takes place not just in the shadow of a rising China, but amid expanding Taiwan ties with its trade partners around the globe," said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the non-profit organization that promotes U.S.-Taiwan trade and business relations.
Rupert Hammond-Chambers made the suggestion in an op-ed piece published in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, two days before Taiwanese and American officials were set to meet in the U.S. capital for economic and trade talks under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
Specifically, he said, U.S. and Taiwanese officials attending the meeting could announce their intention to begin negotiations on a bilateral investment agreement, for which Taiwan has been calling over the last few years.
Such an agreement would position the U.S. to support Taiwan's eventual membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord, said Hammond-Chambers.
His recommendation came as student-led protesters continued to occupy Taiwan's parliament in protest against a trade-in-services agreement with China.
The occupation movement is the result of "domestic angst" over Taiwan's "stepping too far into China's sphere of influence," he suggested in his article.
While trade with China has boomed, Taiwan's ties with other existing and potential trade partners have expanded only marginally, he said, adding that this has left the China policy of President Ma Ying-jeou vulnerable to major domestic criticism.
With the current protests, he said, there is a risk that Taiwan's debate over relations with China will become radicalized. Ma's ability to push new China initiatives would then disappear, as would his viability as a partner for China.
If China concludes that Ma is no longer able to advance cross-strait relations, tensions with Taiwan could spike quickly, he warned.
The consequences of continued inaction on the part of the United States could be dire, with the Taiwan Strait again becoming the main flashpoint in U.S.-China relations, he concluded.