Include Taiwan in the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Olivia Enos /

“We do hope to [get] into TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] as early as possible,” said Mignonne Man-Jung Chan, former senior adviser to the President on Taiwan, at a recent event at The Heritage Foundation.

Dr. Chan’s statement reflects the opinion of the Taiwanese government and key analysts who echo the sentiment that the best way for Taiwan to diversify its markets and improve competitiveness in the region is to join TPP trade negotiations.

In terms of timing, just this past week, President Ma Ying-jeou said he would like to join the TPP upon the conclusion of new trade agreements with Singapore and New Zealand. Completion of both of those agreements is widely understood to be just around the corner. In fact, they may already be complete, waiting for a new services agreement with China to be cleared by Taiwan’s legislature first.

Officials in the U.S. government are also in favor of Taiwan’s inclusion in the TPP. “Regarding participation by Taiwan in the TPP, the TPP is open to all APEC [Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation] economies—including Taiwan—that can establish their readiness to meet the high standards of the agreement,” said new U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

Many experts agree that Taiwan should join the TPP sooner rather than later. If Taiwan decides to join TPP negotiations soon, it could get in on the ground floor of the resulting economic integration and increase in trade, but if it forgoes the TPP, it could get squeezed out of the growing Asian trade market, says Heritage’s Derek Scissors. He further noted that it is not a question of whether Taiwan is ready—especially since Vietnam and Peru are already a part of negotiations—but whether Taiwan is willing to join.

Taiwan is a member of APEC and has opened up its market even more to its top trade partner: China. However, Taiwan’s continued political relevance and de facto autonomy is in part contingent upon its economic vitality and broad integration into the regional and global economies. The recent signings of the Korea–U.S. and European Union–Korea free trade agreements, as well as the negotiation of the 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, signals growing competition for Taiwan in the region. The TPP would help Taiwan keep pace with its regional competitors by expanding its markets beyond dependence on China.

There seems to be agreement all around—from the U.S., from Taiwan, and from economic analysts—that it is time for Taiwan to move forward with the TPP. The U.S. government should take up the cause with its TPP partners.