Expanding Taiwan's International Participation | Commentary

The very important Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations deserve the full attention and active involvement of Congress. Trade agreements address a broad range of policy areas and have the potential to result in significant economic opportunities for U.S. businesses, so members of Congress must play a critically important role in the development and oversight of trade agreements. However, a regional free-trade agreement without Taiwan would be unthinkable, which would render the regional integration incomplete and ineffective to the disadvantage of American interest.

Although Taiwan is an economic success, Taiwan has been excluded from many international organizations in which the rest of the world shares information and makes critical global decisions. If Taiwan’s voice is continuously extinguished in the international community, the United States will lose a valued democratic partner. It is in the United States’ interest to help Taiwan access the international organizations such as the TPP.

Already an economic powerhouse and a member of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Taiwan is an ideal TPP candidate. In the absence of international participation, the growth of Taiwan’s marginalization is the unfortunate consequence. A strong Taiwan confident in its relationship with the U.S. is key to peace and security in East Asia, and the implications of Taiwan’s economic predicament is of profound importance to the United States.

The Asia-Pacific region is of crucial importance as it is the fastest growing region in the world and a key driver of global economic growth. Indeed, the region already accounts for 60 percent of global gross domestic product and 50 percent of international trade. And the Asia-Pacific region is expected to grow by around 8 percent this year. The U.S.-led TPP is building new orders in Asia-Pacific trade. If Taiwan does not join TPP, Taiwan will be marginalized in the regional integration process that is taking place now.

Taiwan’s economy is larger than most of those currently represented in the TPP. It would also be among the more developed economies represented in the negotiations. The prevention of its participation would be an artificial political barrier. Taiwan has been generally neglected in the Obama administration’s rebalance. Exclusion from the TPP would be a serious blow to Washington’s efforts to fully and formally keep pace with the economic integration taking place around it.

Taiwan is too important to the global economy. Taiwan could helps U.S. industries achieve successful regional strategies and to the prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region to be left out of this vital trade agreement. It makes sense to include one of the United States’ strongest democratic allies in East Asia and to use the tool of regional integration to benefit both the U.S. and Taiwan economies. The TPP would further help Taiwan keep pace with its regional competitors by expanding its markets beyond dependence on China.

The United States should fulfill the commitment it made in the 1994 Taiwan Policy Review to more actively support Taiwan’s participation in appropriate international organizations. As a first step toward its admission to the system, Taiwan, hopefully, can conclude a Bilateral Investment Agreement with the U.S. to further regularize its extensive business exchanges with this country, leading to a closely connected U.S.-Taiwan partnership heading toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The island’s 23 million people are certainly doing all that they can to help Taiwan access to the international organizations, how about a little help from Congress. I strongly urge the Congress working together to “take more ambitious steps” to help Taiwan participate in international organizations such as the TPP. The United States must move swiftly to conclude the TPP and then work towards including Taiwan.

Kent Wang is advisory commissioner for the Overseas Chinese Affairs Council of Republic of China (Taiwan) in the United States and writes on East Asian international politics and regional security issues.

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