TAIPEI–Taiwan should liberalize its economy to ensure future prosperity and integration into the global market, a senior American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) official said yesterday.
In his welcoming remarks at the annual Taiwan-U.S. Commercial Forum in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, AIT Kaohsiung Branch Office Chief Gary Oba listed the benefits of economic liberalization and said that Taiwan could lag further behind its trade rivals if it continues to embrace protectionist measures.
“Taiwan is falling behind neighbors like Singapore and South Korea,” Oba said.
Singapore has so far signed free trade agreements (FTAs) with countries such as South Korea, Australia and India, while South Korea has reached similar pacts with the United States and the European Union.
Taiwan, on the other hand, only has its economic cooperation framework agreement with China, signed in 2010, although President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration is working on forging FTAs with Singapore and New Zealand.
Oba acknowledged that the process of liberalization is not an easy task.
“Change has its costs,” he said, noting that there are “entrenched interests” among those who resist opening markets and those who do not welcome competition.
Referring to the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership — a multilateral free trade agreement designed to liberalize economies in the Asia-Pacific region — Oba said it is a “gold standard trade agreement” and he urged Taiwan to strive to meet the requirements for membership.
Ma made joining the partnership one of his re-election campaign promises and envisions that Taiwan will be admitted within the next decade.
Several Taiwan government agencies were represented at the conference, in addition to the American State Offices Association, the American Chamber of Commerce in Kaohsiung and various academics and politicians.