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US gets involved in 'Taiwan's war on Uber': report

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- With the fate of Uber Taiwan in limbo, U.S. officials have reportedly tried to persuade Taiwan's government to cave and legalize the ride-sharing service.

News of Uber's suspension of its services in the country on Feb. 10 has reportedly prompted "two U.S. entities" to communicate with President Tsai Ing-wen's government.

According to a Bloomberg report, Uber's Director of Public Policy for the Asia-Pacific Region Damian Alexander Kassbgi mentioned that "the State Department has been helpful in pressing Taiwan's government to reconsider the anti-Uber legislation."

This comment could shed light on an earlier comment from Transportation Minister Ho Chen Tan (賀陳旦) about "some U.S. officials expressing concern"—"not pressure" — about the issue.

In response to questioning from The China Post about these alleged talks between the State Department and Taiwanese officials, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said it did not "comment on the content of our private conversations with Taiwan officials."

Nonetheless, AIT's spokesperson Joe Bookbinder noted that "the U.S. believes the sharing economy offers great benefits to consumers and to the economy as a whole."

What about Taiwan-US Relations?

One day before Uber's suspension, the Internet Association's President and CEO Michael Beckerman penned a letter to Tsai, according to Bloomberg.

In the letter, Beckerman warned of the "negative effects on U.S. investment in Taiwan more broadly," saying that the Uber ban could jeopardize "Taiwan's interest in future efforts that would bring our economics closer together."

Beckerman asked Tsai to "use your appropriate authority to direct the Ministry of Transportation to work with Uber in the immediate term to come to an agreement on a regulatory framework."

While Bookbinder's statement did not mention Uber specifically, it did note that through the Digital Economy Forum, the U.S. and Taiwan "have affirmed the importance of a policy environment that promotes innovation, trade, and investment."

Bloomberg's Eli Lake, the author of"Taiwan's War Against Uber," claimed that the current Uber controversy had "the potential to chill trade between Taiwan and the U.S."

Lake goes as far as to ask whether Taiwan would be willing to go to a trade war with the U.S. to protect its taxi industry and thereby continue its Uber ban.

He posed this question, pointing to the fact that U.S. President Donald Trump has "threatened to respond in kind to countries that punish U.S. companies to protect their own industries."

Ministry Doesn't Budge

This ominous article was the latest development in an ongoing Taiwan-Uber dispute, which was marked by a protest earlier Sunday.

Hundreds of Uber drivers rallied outside the Transportation Ministry with a list of demands that ultimately called for a special law to legalize and regulate the ride-sharing service.

In response to the weekend rally, the ministry held firm in its decision to ask Uber to comply with local laws, stating that the government would be happy to see Uber operating in Taiwan legally.

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