In a recent online panel hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and joined by AmCham Taiwan President Andrew Wylegala, former Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Barbara Weisel put Taiwan’s chances of concluding a bilateral trade agreement (BTA) with the U.S. at “zero,” at least in the near term. Weisel noted that the appetite in Washington for traditional trade pacts like BTAs is lower than in previous administrations, especially as the U.S. emerges from the coronavirus pandemic and President Biden has stated his intention to create a worker-centric trade policy before pursuing any further deals.
While AmCham continues to promote a U.S.-Taiwan BTA as one of its top advocacy goals – and a 66% majority of members deem it as important to their business in Taiwan, according to the results of the Chamber’s 2022 Business Climate Survey – it also recognizes and supports through its diverse advocacy efforts the use of a variety of different channels and mechanisms to strengthen and further the bilateral economic relationship. As countries worldwide grapple with the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and a global trend of digital transformation, ample opportunities are available for meaningful progress in terms of trade, investment, and innovation.
For instance, Taiwan’s exceptional strengths in the semiconductor, ICT, and emerging technology spaces justify its involvement in either bilateral or plurilateral next-generation agreements on digital trade, which 53% of AmCham members also support. The Technology Trade and Investment Collaboration (TTIC) framework, under which the U.S. and Taiwan aim to work together in developing commercial programs and bolstering critical supply chains, is a welcome addition to the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) meetings that the U.S. and Taiwan recently restarted, as well as their launch of the bilateral Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue. However, many in both Taiwan and the U.S. hope that the two sides can begin moving beyond the realm of exploratory discussions and sector-specific memorandums of understanding toward more formal, concrete mechanisms that recognize Taiwan’s importance and potential in tech and digital development.
Another key area worthy of further exploration is cooperation on climate and the environment. The impressive strides Taiwan has made in environmental education and the government’s push to reduce carbon emissions and transform its energy mix to include a higher proportion of renewables make it an ideal partner to work together with the U.S. on achieving a net-zero future. The Taiwan and U.S. environmental protection bodies have developed a close collaborative relationship over the years, and AmCham members as well as Taiwanese suppliers to American corporations are eager to become more involved in efforts to combat climate change. Dialogues bringing together participants from the public and private sectors to share principles and best practices could give rise to shared standards and higher-level agreements down the line.
The above-mentioned are just two among many points of mutual concern and potential opportunity for the U.S. and Taiwan. With the Biden administration’s announcement last month of its new Indo-Pacific Strategy and proposed economic framework, it is critical for Taiwan be deeply involved in helping America carry out this vision for the region in the coming years. Given its status as a trusted partner of the U.S. and its central role in making regional and global supply chains more resilient, Taiwan must find new and effective ways of moving the economic relationship forward with its partner across the Pacific, hopefully resulting ultimately in a BTA.