On October 3, 2022, the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan (AmCham Taiwan) President Andrew Wylegala advocated for a U.S.-Taiwan BTA in an interview with media outlet DigiTimes Asia.
During the interview, Mr. Wylegala mentioned the BTA Coalition, stating, “AmCham has been calling for the BTA almost for all those 20 years, certainly for the last decade. For the last two, or three years, one of the top requests that our members have in our annual Business Climate Survey is for a bilateral free trade agreement between the U.S. and Taiwan. So it’s pretty clear that the U.S. industry says they would like that. In response to that, we joined another trade association in Washington, DC, the US Taiwan Business Council to form the BTA Coalition about two and a half years ago. And right now, there are four association members. We don’t have a single company, Taiwan capital, or American capital, or third country that has signed on and said the governments should do this.“
Additionally, Mr. Wylegala recommended that, “Taiwan’s leadership should: commit resources, engage the private sector, and address emerging challenges around technology trade and investment, be ready to evolve on agricultural, environmental, and labor issues.”
Mr. Wylegala’s support for the BTA appeared after a question by DigiTimes about how Taiwan can become an even stronger partner to the United States. The full interview can be found here.
Q: AmCham has been a champion for bilateral agreements between Taiwan and the United States in terms of investment and also trade. So, what are the areas you would advise Taiwan to step up in order to become an irresistible partner to the free trade agreement for the US and potential partners of CPTPP?
A: There’s a long history of talking about bilateral cooperation trade agreements for about 20 years since the time Taiwan came into the World Trade Organization. And now there’s a sense that we’re closer than we ever been before to initiating a process to deliver genuine opening and integration, mostly because of the changes on the United States’ side, where there is a real appreciation of Taiwan as an important partner. There are some economic challenges and supply chain challenges that the US confronts. So now we have a chance. What can Taiwan do to seize the opportunity? Number one, I think Taiwan needs to commit to making it happen. AmCham has been calling for the BTA almost for all those 20 years, certainly for the last decade. For the last two, or three years, one of the top requests that our members have in our annual Business Climate Survey is for a bilateral free trade agreement between the US and Taiwan. So it’s pretty clear that the US industry says they would like that.
In response to that, we joined another trade association in Washington, DC, the US Taiwan Business Council to form the BTA Coalition about two and a half years ago. And right now, there are four association members. We don’t have a single company, Taiwan capital, or American capital, or third country that has signed on and said the governments should do this. In my experience as a former trade promoter with the US Government, every time there was a big deal like KORUS with Korea, like NAFTA, you needed mobilization of the private sector to push on all of those governments to say, “this is important for us, get it done!” And I think this is the case now. I think our members need to recognize we’re in a different era, a different paradigm. And it’s time to support what is a completely legal and appropriate process, free trade talks. And on the Taiwan side, I would love DIGITIMES readers to think about rendering support for the BTA.
In the Whitepaper that we published on June 22, we have about 96, very particular suggestions of policy and regulatory changes that we believe Taiwan should make. And we think a lot of those will be a part of any trade negotiation. But certainly, in terms of a BTA, Taiwan should start thinking about how it can meet some of those needs that American companies on the ground have seen. So probably some of them will be shared by our trade negotiators like USTR. Back in Washington, there are some problem areas that Taiwan should put a lot of attention to. And one of the most sensitive sectors in every country I’ve seen is the agricultural sector. Taiwan needs to be ready to make appropriate concessions. Two other signature areas are the Environment and Labor in any modern, high-standard trade agreement. Environment issues will not be so hard for Taiwan to position itself. Labor could be somewhat more concerning. We’ve heard critical reports from NGOs and third-party bodies that look at labor practices, particularly around fishing labor on deep ocean fleets. But also look at conditions of migrant labor onshore, such as collective bargaining, and the ability to unionize and exercise union rights. So that will be an area where Taiwan needs to step up. This is another positive agenda that I think Taiwan can put out there to make itself irresistible, not just meet a high standard, which Taiwan can do, but to actually show the other party, such as the United States that they can’t do without Taiwan.
One is an area of digital trade, where there’s not just for the United States but a global need to write the rules for what is the most dynamic area of our economies. Privacy on cross-border data flows related to this space, cybersecurity controls, ethical rules around the application of artificial intelligence and all of these wonderful new tools from Big Data to the Internet of Things. So why is Taiwan so important? Because it’s technically savvy. It’s certainly committed to this area, as shown by standing up a ministry of digital affairs under a brilliant minister in Audrey Tang. It has proven its resilience and strength in the face of great threats of disinformation of cyber-attacks, like no other place on earth. So I think Taiwan comes from a position of credibility, a position of strength, and the US has comparable strengths that they can bring to the table. So it’s a win-win. Taiwan should tell the world that it’s ready to move into the 21st century with digital trade. And then the second area is technology management or technology control. So, the whole basket of issues about two-way investment screening about export controls even tighter physical and cyber security controls of our intellectual property law are involved here. And again, I think Taiwan is in a good position. partly out of necessity, it’s been the target in some cases, the victim of so many of those pressures for so long. Taiwan’s got some very good solutions or counter-measures.
It’s also holding a lot of wonderful IP, that’s so important to the ecosystem. In a complementary, holistic semiconductor puzzle, Taiwan holds many of the key pieces, and it’s a natural partner for a cutting-edge agreement. So that might take the shape of a chapter in this BTA, a comprehensive investment agreement. So, in sum, I would say, Taiwan’s leadership should: commit resources, engage the private sector, and address emerging challenges around technology trade and investment, be ready to evolve on agricultural, environmental, and labor issues.
The US-Taiwan Bilateral Trade Agreement Coalition welcomes this call to action by our Coalition member.