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TPP can help Taiwan lower reliance on China: economist

LOS ANGELES -- Lin Wuu-long, the former head of enterprise management research at the United Nations, said Taiwan's move to treat joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a top priority makes sense.

The economist said the proposed regional economic bloc, which is currently being negotiated by 12 countries, will not only help Taiwan improve its international competitiveness but also reduce its economic dependence on China.

At a conference on Taiwan's participation in the TPP held in Los Angeles on Saturday, Lin said the total gross domestic product of the 12 TPP negotiating partners accounts for 40 percent of the globe's GDP, and their external trade accounts for a third of the global total.

The TPP could become the world's largest free trade bloc, Lin said.

For Taiwan, which has free trade links with only a few countries, joining the bloc could also help promote industrial upgrading and create a high-quality and attractive investment environment in Taiwan for Taiwanese businesses operating on the mainland, Lin said.

That would ensure that Taiwan would not have to face the risk of having its industrial base hollowed out, the economist said. Many Taiwanese manufacturers have migrated abroad, especially to China, to take advantage of cheaper labor and other countries' big domestic markets, a trend that could accelerate if Taiwan remains marginalized and left out of regional trade blocs.

The economist also believed that the United States, which has committed to a “pivot to Asia” policy, would agree with Taiwan's participation in the TPP so that Taiwan will not be marginalized.

The 12 countries in the TPP negotiations are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

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