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US reiterates stance on Taiwan's TPP bid

TAIPEI -- The United States on Tuesday reiterated its stance on Taiwan's bid to join the proposed U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an Asia-Pacific trade bloc, saying it welcomed Taiwan's interest in the TPP.

“Our view hasn't changed,” said Mark Zimmer, spokesman for the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of bilateral diplomatic ties.

Zimmer was responding to questions on whether 11 of the TPP negotiating countries (except the U.S.) might be vulnerable to influence from China, which could affect Taiwan's bid to join the trade bloc.

Calling it “a hypothetical question,” Zimmer said the U.S. has noted Taiwan's interest in joining the TPP and China is not among the 12 countries in the negotiations on the trade pact.

“In the short term, our view hasn't changed,” he said. “We welcome Taiwan's interest.”

Taiwan's government has argued that legislative approval of a trade-in-services agreement signed with China in June 2013 was necessary to open the doors to the country's participation in the TPP, a view contradicted by a U.S. official in Taiwan on Monday.

Robert Wang, U.S. senior official for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), said Washington does not see any direct connection between the services pact and the TPP.

But Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch said Monday that Taiwan had to neutralize China's influence before it could join regional trade blocs, fearing that Beijing could get other countries to block Taiwan's bid.

When Zimmer was asked whether China would be a factor that affects Taiwan's TPP bid, he said “we don't know yet.”

“We will deal with that if and when that time comes,” he told the local media during a break in the opening ceremony of AIT's Community Garden.

The TPP is being negotiated by the U.S. and 11 other countries — Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico and Brunei. They are aiming to finish the first round of negotiations later this year.

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