Sen. Gardner Calls on Trade Representative to Begin Bilateral Trade Agreement Talks With Taiwan

July 30, 2020 Updated: July 30, 2020

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), urged the U.S. trade representative (USTR) to begin negotiations between the United States and Taiwan on a comprehensive Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA).

Gardner, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy sent a letter to USTR Ambassador Robert Lighthizer on Wednesday urging him to take advantage of the “favorable environment” with the passage of the Taipei International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act to begin trade talks.

“I write to respectfully urge you to immediately initiate meaningful negotiations between the United States and Taiwan on a comprehensive Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA),” Gardner wrote.

With unanimous support, the Senate passed the TAIPEI) Act in October 2019 and it was signed into law in March.

The legislation aims to “engage in bilateral trade negotiations with Taiwan, with the goal of entering into a free trade agreement that is of mutual economic benefit and that protects United States workers and benefits United States exporters.”

Gardner said the TAIPEI Act was enacted to improve the economy for the United States and Taiwan. The senator also emphasized that further trade with Taiwan will strengthen the bond of democracy between the two countries and will not depend on mainland China.

“Whether it’s a supply chain involving our pharmaceuticals or our PPE or semiconductors, these are very important indigenous industries to be able to maintain. Indigenous doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily, you know, only in the United States but that we have a shared interest from allies that share our values, to invest in that area and hopefully the United States,” Gardner said on Thursday during a virtual discussion with the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said earlier in the week that Taiwan will be working with the United States to make semiconductors here in the United States.

In 2018 the U.S. (goods and services) trade with Taiwan was close to $95 billion. Exports were $40.3 billion; imports were $54.2 billion. Taiwan is currently our 11th largest goods trading partner with $76.0 billion in total (two way) goods trade during 2018.

Since the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, the Trump administration has taken a tough stance with the CCP and lawmakers have been creating legislation to bring essential manufacturing back to the United States and stop the CCP from expanding its military power in the Indo-Pacific region.

According to the National Defense Magazine, “The FY 21 (National Defense Authorization Act) NDAA establishes the Pacific Deterrence Initiative to send a strong signal to the Chinese Communist Party that America is deeply committed to defending our interests in the Indo-Pacific.”

Gardner also emphasized that deepening the trade relationship with Taiwan will ultimately increase U.S. national security, security for Taiwan, and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

The senator said the U.S. government needs to support and further engage with Taiwan to prevent the CCP from doing to Taiwan what it did to Hong Kong.

“You know, we’re not going to allow this, we were lulled into a sense of complacency in Hong Kong, see what happened. We’re not going to let that happen with Taiwan and that’s U.S. leadership that’s going to be required, the United Nations and every organization around the globe, whether it’s a healthcare organization or a telecoms issue,” Gardner said.

“We need to stand up for this and engage them because once we do that, it’s more and more difficult for China to do something nefarious,” Gardner added.

Gardner concluded his letter to Lighthizer by stressing his willingness to work together, toward deepening a trade partnership with Taiwan for the prosperity of the two nations and their allies.