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Taiwan needs political ambition to join TPP: ex-U.S. official (update)
【Economics】2013-10-15  19:15:26
Taipei, Oct. 15 (CNA) A former U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs said Tuesday in Taipei that Taiwan needs political ambition if it wants to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement.

The TPP offers enormous possibilities for a number of countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and almost every country in the region that is not involved in the TPP has said it would like to join, Kurt Campbell said in a question-and-answer session after a speech in Taipei when asked about his advice to Taiwan on entering the TPP.

"There has to be political ambition and that has to extend beyond one political party," Campbell said, highlighting Vietnam as an example of what it takes to enter the TPP.

"The steps that they have taken are remarkable. Unbelievable. (They) have come much further than Taiwan would have to come," said Campbell, without elaborating.

"I think the thing that is missing occasionally in the U.S.-Taiwan relationship is creativity and ambition," said Campbell, who delivered a keynote speech titled "Security Dynamics in Northeast Asia and the Implications for Taiwan" at the Taiwan-U.S.-Japan Trilateral Security Dialogue forum.

He added, however, that the resumption of talks between the United States and Taiwan under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) has given him more confidence about "what might be possible going forward."

In his speech, Campbell praised Taiwan's role in the Asia-Pacific region, saying that the three-way relationship among the U.S., China and Taiwan has created stability that is unique over the last 30 years.

"Taiwan deserves remarkable credit for managing these complex and myriad relationships going forth," he said.

Relations between the U.S. and China are "relatively stable," with a clear commitment on both sides to establish a framework for cooperation, he explained, adding that despite challenges, cross-Taiwan Strait relations are probably at an all-time high. The unofficial relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan is the strongest it has been in decades, he added.

"We value Taiwan as not just an economic partner, but a security and political partner," Campbell said, citing a speech by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Campbell, who served as U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs from 2009 to early 2013, was one of the key architects of the Obama administration's Asia "pivot."

In a later panel discussion, U.S.-Taiwan Business Council President Rupert Hammond-Chambers said TIFA trade talks are going well and he expressed hopes of seeing a bilateral investment agreement in the near future.

"That is certainly within the grasp of the U.S and Taiwan. It should be a short-term goal. By that I mean in the next 18 to 24 months," Hammond-Chambers said.

As for whether the United States would advocate for Taiwan's entry into the TPP, Hammond-Chambers said he is "greatly" worried that such an ambition is not in the American policy-making circle at this moment.

Meanwhile, Kristy Hsu, an associate research fellow at Taiwan's Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, argued that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is more attractive than the TPP to countries in the region. She predicted that the potential economic gains from the RCEP will be greater with the participation of China and India.

She said, however, that the RCEP will further increase economic dependence on China in the region, so mechanisms to protect smaller economies, such as a better-designed dispute settlement and policy consultation mechanism, "will be needed to make the RCEP a win-win solution for all participants."

The RCEP is a planned trade bloc of 16 countries consisting of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states and their free trade agreement partners -- Australia, New Zealand, China, India, South Korea and Japan.

The one-day forum, held for the third year, was organized by the Taiwan-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, the Tokyo Foundation and Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

(By Christie Chen and James Lee)
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