After numerous rounds of grueling negotiations over seven years, the 12 Pacific Rim countries committed to coming together to form wide-ranging trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) were able to announce on October 5 that they had reached agreement on the contents.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei quickly issued a press release heartily welcoming the news. Although full details of the agreement have not yet been made public – and although many political obstacles remain before the deal is finally ratified by the national legislatures of the countries involved – last month’s announcement represents a major landmark with a high level of both economic and diplomatic importance. It holds promise not only of reinvigorating the international trade environment, which has been languishing for years due to stagnation in the DOHA Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO), but also of enhancing stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific.
For Taiwan, the TPP is of crucial significance. With the pact now a major step closer to becoming a reality, it is crucial that this country do everything possible to burnish its candidacy for inclusion in a second round of TPP negotiations when the group is ready to expand its membership in another year or more. A trading economy such as Taiwan’s cannot afford to be left out of such a critical initiative. Liberalizing Taiwan’s trading and regulatory regimes to meet the high standards set by the TPP is certain to meet objections from particular domestic interests, but AmCham Taipei is confident that the overall good of the society will prevail.
As Taiwan prepares itself for a TPP accession bid, a complicating factor will be the upcoming presidential and legislative elections, and the transition next year to a new government administration and new legislature. AmCham Taipei urges all political forces to collaborate – no mattter who is the ruling party and who is in opposition – in paving the way for Taiwan’s membership in TPP. It is encouraging that both major presidential candidates – Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party and Eric Chu of the Kuo-mintang – have clearly stated their determination to see Taiwan join the TPP. President Ma Ying-jeou has done the same, and the Chamber urges him to dediate his remaining time in office to bringing Taiwan nearer to that goal by building a broad public consensus in support of TPP participation, including recognition that certain compromises and concessions will be necessary in order to achieve it.
When the final text of the agreement is released in the coming weeks, work will need to begin in earnest in analyzing the conditions Taiwan will have to fulfill in order to become a TPP signatory. At that point, no time should be lost in starting to bring Taiwan’s practices and regulations in line with the TPP framework. Taiwan must match the determination to join TPP of South Korea and other regional trade rivals or face the economic repercussions of exclusion from this high-potential trade platform for years to come.