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Envoy to Washington wants Taiwan in on TPP

WASHINGTON -- Taiwan hopes to be invited to take part in the next round of talks on the U.S.-initiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Shen Lyu-shun, Taiwan's top representative in the United States, said recently.

In an interview published by the Washington Times on Monday, Shen contended the TPP may ultimately have 52 member countries but would have a big gap if Taiwan were not included.

“If the TPP is going to succeed, altogether there will probably be 52 countries involved and Taiwan would have been the sixth largest,” he was quoted as saying by the Washington Times. “Can you imagine an organization of 52 countries but you don't have No. 6?”

“It's not right. It's not complete,” he said. “Hopefully we can be invited to the next round of negotiations.”

Taiwan's business ties with the United States and the rest of the world are growing, Shen said.

But Taiwan is facing sharp competition in global markets from other countries, especially South Korea, and the fact that it has fewer diplomatic allies than Seoul mitigates against its efforts to conclude trade pacts with other countries, Shen said.

To date, Taiwan has only signed an economic framework agreement with China (with only a limited number of products getting tariff-free treatment), and free trade pacts, one with New Zealand, another with Singapore.

“Taiwan, because of our diplomatic status, we need to catch up,” the envoy was quoted as saying.

He emphasized the close trading ties between his country and the U.S., noting that Taiwan, with fewer than 25 million people, is the 11th largest trading partner of the U.S., ahead of all European countries aside from Britain, Germany and France.

Taiwan is also one of the largest buyers of U.S. grains and other agricultural exports and remains a key market for U.S. defense technology, which means that as many as 300,000 U.S. jobs depend on trade with Taiwan, he said.

A key goal for Taiwan, Shen emphasized, is to reach a bilateral free trade agreement with Washington “sooner than later.”

Closer ties with the U.S. are now especially important at a time when Taiwan's citizens are more focused on developing ties with China than with the United States, and “economic, social and cultural integration has already happened across the Taiwan Strait.”

“Mainland China is our largest land of opportunities, but they are the largest single, potential source of threat for us,” he said, explaining that outside support is needed for Taipei to remain confident in its dealings with Beijing, the diplomat said.

“The more we engage with mainland China, the more support we need from the United States,” Shen said.

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