Marco Rubio, Mario Diaz-Balart Push Free Trade Agreement With Taiwan

Two Republicans in the Florida delegation–U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart–are backing resolutions on Capitol Hill calling on the U.S. to enter a free trade agreement with Taiwan.

The resolutions were introduced two weeks ago by Pennsylvania Republicans U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler. Diaz-Balart and U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, are the original co-sponsors in the House.

“This legislation is a critical step toward building a stronger diplomatic partnership with Taiwan, expanding economic growth and job creation through increased access to markets in the Indo-Pacific region, and countering the Chinese Communist Party’s hostilities towards Taiwan,” Diaz-Balart‘s office noted. “Currently, Taiwan is the 10th largest trading partner with the United States in goods and the 11th largest trading partner overall.  In 2019, bilateral trade in goods between Taiwan and the United States accounted for $86 billion, a $24 billion increase from 2010. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Taiwan supports an estimated 208,000 U.S. jobs as of 2015, and Taiwan’s foreign direct investment stock accounts for $11.1 billion.”

“Taiwan is a strong friend and democratic ally of the United States, and I support efforts to further strengthen that relationship with deepened economic ties,” said Diaz-Balart last week. “While the PRC continues to bully and threaten its neighbors, Taiwan has nonetheless thrived as an economic powerhouse and responsible partner on a variety of key priorities including public health, democracy promotion, and trade. Working toward a free trade agreement with Taiwan will strengthen this crucial relationship and enable Taiwan to better withstand the barrage of threats and hostility from the PRC.”

“As a member of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus,  I am proud to introduce this critical legislation that supports expanding economic ties between the United States and Taiwan by lowering trade barriers,” said Reschenthaler. “As an important trading partner for the United States and Pennsylvania, a free trade agreement with Taiwan will enhance our economic, diplomatic, and security partnership in the Indo-Pacific while also countering the Chinese Communist Party’s aggression in the region. After visiting Taiwan in 2019, I saw firsthand Taiwan’s shared economic values and commitment to freedom and democracy. It is past time our nation takes advantage of this opportunity to deepen trade ties with our friend and ally Taiwan. I thank Senator Toomey and Reps. Diaz-Balart and Chabot for joining me to strengthen this enduring partnership.”

“Building closer trade ties between the United States and Taiwan is a win-win for both countries,” said Toomey. “American workers and manufacturers would have more customers, American consumers would have access to more affordable goods, both economies would grow faster, and America would strengthen its relationship with a key regional ally and increase our economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific region. The Senate should pass this resolution and the incoming Biden administration should make a trade agreement with Taiwan a priority.”

“TECRO sincerely appreciates Senator Toomey and Congressman Reschenthaler for introducing this important resolution,” said Ambassador Bi-Khim Hsiao. “As both Taiwan and the United States are making every endeavor to ensure supply chain security and trading relationships that will provide us with more resilience and restore our economic growth in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, a bilateral trade agreement would be a sensible and necessary move to achieve those goals. Taiwan is ready to start the negotiations towards a high-standard trade agreement. We look forward to working with US Congress and the administration to deepen Taiwan-US trade and economic ties.”

Toomey has more than 20 co-sponsors including Rubio and the resolution is before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. Reschenthaler’s resolution is before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.

Back in September, Rubio pushed the U.S. State Department to begin talks with Taiwan in an effort to have a free trade agreement with that Asian nation. 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 September 2020, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., 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 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 Diaz-Balart who is 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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