By Yaita Akio
TAIPEI – Taiwan’s Minister without Portfolio Deng Chen-chung, the minister in charge of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) issue and the top Taiwanese TPP negotiator who applied for Taiwan’s TPP membership, sat down for an interview with the Sankei Shimbun on Oct. 19. He underscored that participation in the TPP is a “measure necessary for not being left behind in the trend toward international trade liberalization.” He also called for the early creation of a working group for the realization of [Taiwan’s] TPP membership with the fact that Japan is serving as TPP chair this year in mind.
Regarding the current state of Taiwan’s international trade, Deng pointed out: “The export industry is extremely important for Taiwan. But our participation in free trade frameworks has been delayed for political reasons. We are likely to suffer further disadvantages down the road.” He also disclosed that Taiwan’s participation in international trade frameworks and negotiations on free trade agreements with other nations have been making little progress due to China’s obstruction and other reasons. He emphasized, “The participation in the TPP is a great opportunity for Taiwan.”
As for China’s declaration of its opposition [to Taiwan’s TPP bid], Deng acknowledged China’s strong influence, saying, “China has a huge market and diplomatic power” and analyzed, “If China joined the TPP earlier than Taiwan, that would certainly be a significant disadvantage to Taiwan.” He stressed that to prevent such a situation from happening, “All Taiwan can do is emphasize that it’s a trustworthy partner that can abide by rules and to promote what we can do one step at a time.”
Deng also said: “We introduced legislation and made various preparations over the past five years. We have also satisfied conditions, including workers’ interests and environmental protection.” He insisted, “A working group for accepting Taiwan needs to be promptly established” for Taiwan’s participation in the TPP. He went on to say, “We expect support from Japan and other countries that share such values and freedom and democracy with Taiwan.”
As for the lifting of the import ban on food items from Fukushima and four other Japanese prefectures hit hard by the Great East Japan Earthquake, which may become a bottleneck in negotiations with Japan, Deng said, “We will seriously face and deal with the issue.” He added, “There is no reason to stop imports from these areas unless they violate the principles of ensuring people’s health, respecting scientific evidence, and observing international rules,” indicating his intention to swiftly resolve the issue through negotiations with the Japanese government.