Almost two dozen GOP House representatives urged President Joe Biden to pursue a formal free trade agreement with Taiwan, citing economic and national security benefits amid influence from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the Indo-Pacific region.
In a letter on Monday, the lawmakers asked the Biden administration to submit for Senate approval a formal free trade agreement with the self-governed island nation under a U.S.-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), a mechanism for resolving bilateral trade issues.
The letter, led by Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.), was joined by 22 other GOP House representatives.
They said that a formal free trade agreement would bring “significant economic benefits” to the two nations. They noted that Taiwan is the United States’ 13th largest export partner and sixth largest agricultural export market.
“A free trade agreement would open even more opportunities for our manufacturers and farmers,” lawmakers said in the letter. “The United States would have better access to Taiwanese food and energy sectors and see improved protection for our businesses’ intellectual property rights.”
Taiwan also brings potential benefits in the technology industry, the lawmakers pointed out. “Taiwan has rapidly become one of the premier electronics manufacturing hubs in the world. Taiwanese firms account for at least 48 percent of total semiconductor fabrication globally,” lawmakers said, adding that such companies are seeking to expand and benefit from the U.S. workforce.
Lawmakers also said a free trade agreement would improve national security for both countries amid influence from the CCP that’s becoming “the greatest threat” to the United States and its allies.
“For decades, Taiwan has been forced to rely on investments from China for their economic growth. More than $185 billion has been invested from mainland China entities over the past several years,” lawmakers said, citing figures from Forbes.
“We have seen how the CCP uses economic investment to expand its influence. The Belt and Road Initiative is one example of how the CCP plans to curry favor with poorer or weaker nations,” they said, adding that a trade agreement with Taiwan will help the United States counter the CCP’s economic influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
In doing so, the United States can help embolden Taiwan and other allies to resist the CCP, lawmakers added. “While China continues to harass our partners through their territorial claims, a United States economic commitment to complement our military presence would pay significant dividends.”
The White House did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.
Taiwan has expressed a strong interest in starting bilateral trade talks with the United States, although Washington has for several years expressed concern over Taiwan’s restrictions on some U.S. beef and pork imports. In August 2020, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen announced the easing of the restrictions, with the measure taking effect on Jan. 1, 2021.
Lawmakers in both chambers have under the Trump administration called for talks to start on a free trade agreement, including 161 House members (pdf) signing a joint letter in 2019 and 50 senators signing another joint latter in October 2020 to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).
In December 2020, more than 30 Republicans in the House and Senate pushed for a U.S-Taiwan free trade agreement in a House resolution.
Taiwan’s economy is heavily dependent on China, the latter being Taiwan’s largest trading partner—occupying 24.3 percent of the island’s total trade in 2019. The United States is in second place, at 13.2 percent.
Taiwan’s effort to sign FTAs with other countries has been hampered by opposition from the Chinese regime, which sees the island as a part of its territory that must one day be united with the mainland. However, the self-ruled island is a democratic market economy with its own currency, military, and constitution.
According to the Congressional Research Service (pdf), a U.S.-Taiwan free trade agreement could “increase two-way trade and investment, strengthen ties, and help Taiwan diversify away from China by giving other countries cover to resist pressure from Beijing and pursue similar agreements with Taiwan.”
Frank Fang contributed to this report.