TAIPEI — The United States downplayed the possibility yesterday that delayed legislative passage of the trade-in-services agreement between Taiwan and China will affect Washington’s stance on Taipei’s bid to join the proposed U.S.-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc.
There is no “direct relation to the TPP,” said Mark Zimmer, spokesman for the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties.
He made the remarks in response to questions on whether a delay in Taiwan’s handling of the services agreement with China will affect U.S. willingness to welcome Taiwan’s interest in the TPP.
Zimmer also took the opportunity to laud the economic relationship between Taiwan and the U.S., citing as an example the success of recent bilateral talks in Washington under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
“We’ll continue to nurture this very important economic and commercial relationship,” he said on the sidelines of an AIT news conference to mark the 35th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which has guided the development of Taipei-Washington ties over recent decades.
Taiwan signed the services agreement with China last June, but it is now stalled in the Legislature awaiting review. Worried that the agreement will hurt Taiwan’s interests and lead to greater Chinese influence over Taiwan, student-led demonstrators began occupying the Legislature March 18.
The protesters decided to end the occupation later Thursday, as some of their demands have been accepted by the government and lawmakers.
Asked about the protest, Zimmer said the U.S. does not take a stance on the issue and that it is something Taiwan has to work out.
“We’re waiting to see,” he said in response to questions on the impact of the protest on cross-Taiwan Strait relations.
The U.S. supports steps taken to deepen relations across the strait, he said. “The primary concern is a peaceful and civil resolution of the current dispute,” he added.
Asked whether the U.S. will help Taiwan to enter the TPP, he reiterated the U.S. government’s stance.
The current 12 TPP negotiating countries are looking to finish the first round of negotiations and “we’ll see what happens after that,” he said.
The TPP is being negotiated by the U.S. and 11 other countries — Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico and Brunei.