Marco Rubio Calls on Mike Pompeo to Start Free Trade Negotiations With Taiwan

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is pushing the U.S. State Department to begin talks with Taiwan in an effort to have a free trade agreement with that Asian nation.

This week, Rubio, who sits on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote U.S. Sec. of State Mike Pompeo on the matter, calling on him to send U.S. Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth Keith Krach to Taiwan to handle negotiations. Rubio also cheered the recent announcement that Taiwan will end its restrictions on American beef and pork.

“I write in regard to the recent announcement by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen that Taiwan would be lifting import restrictions on U.S. pork and beef products. This action removes the sole obstacle to pursuing a free trade agreement (FTA) between the U.S. and Taiwan, which is of great strategic importance. As such, I urge you to send Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment Keith Krach to Taipei as soon as possible to demonstrate U.S. determination to complete an FTA in a timely manner,” Rubio wrote Pompeo.

“Maintaining U.S. economic influence and reducing Taiwan’s dependence on trade with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is essential to ensuring that the Indo-Pacific remains free and open. Taiwan is our tenth-largest trade partner and they have proven themselves to be a partner of the first order. An FTA negotiated with Taiwan could serve as a model for what a high-standard trade agreement should look like. It will facilitate free trade under fair conditions that allow American companies and workers to flourish. Now is the time to begin negotiations. Sending Undersecretary Krach would show the U.S. commitment to achieving an FTA with Taiwan. Additionally, later this month, Taiwan will hold a farewell service for the late President Lee Teng-hui. President Lee was a historic figure who was responsible for Taiwan’s democratization, and a stalwart friend to America. Should scheduling work, it would be fitting for a senior U.S. representative to attend his funeral,” Rubio added.

“Taiwan, under President Tsai’s leadership, has taken a critical step by lifting the restrictions on U.S. products. The U.S. should stand behind our friends when they move in a positive direction and create the conditions for enhanced trade relations. The Trump administration deserves credit for taking action on many important issues that its predecessors from both parties neglected with regard to Taiwan and the region more broadly. I trust that you will once again act quickly to advance U.S. interests and economic prosperity for the American people,” Rubio wrote in conclusion. “Thank you for all that you have done to strengthen U.S.-Taiwan relations, most recently by supporting the visit of Secretary Azar in August, in accordance with the Taiwan Travel Act (P.L. 115-135). I stand ready to assist and support you on these important issues.”

Earlier in the month, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., Scott wrote U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on the matter, stressing the alliance and economic ties between the two nations.

“As the administration looks to build on the tremendous growth in free and fair trade relationships around the world, I encourage you to consider negotiating a trade deal with Taiwan. We must take concrete steps to recognize the importance of the Indo-Pacific region, and a free trade agreement (FTA) with Taiwan is long overdue,” Scott wrote, pointing to the $94.5 billion trade relationship between the two nations.

“Taiwan is one of the largest foreign investors in the United States, and serves as a major recipient of U.S. investment, particularly in electronics. Critical technologies, including the semiconductor industry, have continued to surge even after Taiwan’s largest manufacturer, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), parted ways with one of its largest customers, Huawei. Recent announcements that TSMC plans to build a $12 billion plant in Arizona has further proved that the U.S.-Taiwan partnership is strong,” Scott continued.

Scott also cheered the recent announcement that Taiwan will end its restrictions on American beef and pork.

“I urge the Trump administration and Taiwan to lead in building Indo-Pacific relationships, and look to bridge an intercontinental bond that can only strengthen global supply chains. As you do so, the administration should continue to work toward our shared vision of economic success and support democracy by beginning negotiations with Taiwan. Thank you for your leadership and continued attention to strengthening trade partnerships with our allies around the globe,” Scott wrote in conclusion.

Rubio and Scott are not the only members of the Florida delegation who has been pushing for a free trade deal with Taiwan. U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho,  R-Fla., who sits on the U.S. House Agriculture and Foreign Affairs Committees and leads Republicans on the U.S. House Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee, also praised the deal. So did U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., one of the chairmen of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus.

At the end of last year, more than 160 members of Congress urged Lighthizer to begin work on a bilateral trade agreement with Taiwan. Besides Diaz-Balart and Yoho, members of the Florida delegation who signed that letter include Democrats U.S. Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala and Republican U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Neal Dunn, Matt Gaetz, Brian Mast, Francis Rooney and Michael Waltz.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

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