Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
Taiwan has a special relationship with Idaho. Taiwan is Idaho’s second largest trade partner, accounting for the purchase of more than $470 million in Idaho products in 2021, a 16 percent increase from the prior year, according to the Idaho Department of Commerce. Our top exports to Taiwan include electrical equipment and machinery; chemicals, fertilizers and cosmetics; optical and medical equipment; and food and agriculture products. Moreover, our exports are growing, as reflected in a deal last September where Taiwanese flour mills will buy Idaho wheat valued at $576 million. Highlighting the importance of the relationship between Taiwan, Idaho’s Asia Trade Office is based in Taiwan and helps guide Idahoans through expanding sales of Idaho goods into not only Taiwan’s market, but also assists with selling in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
However, our exports can grow even more. Enhancing our trade means jobs in Idaho and greater support for Taiwan to ensure it remains economically and defensibly secure. Engaging in strong, consistent discussions on trade with this important partner remains a focus of my work at the Senate Finance Committee. The importance of Taiwan as a trading partner is reflected in the passage of bipartisan, bicameral legislation to provide congressional approval of the first U.S-Taiwan Initiative Agreement. This consequential legislation is further evidence Congress is ready to pursue an ambitious trade agenda on a bipartisan basis, and pushes the Administration to recognize it is time to negotiate real trade agreements with market access and work with Congress to achieve strong trade policy beneficial to our country.
We have seen the Biden Administration pursue a fruitless and insufficient go-it-alone trade agenda. This has led to Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle calling on the Biden Administration to improve transparency and consultation with Congress on pending trade negotiations, yet the Biden Administration has still not partnered with Congress and the American people, a partnership that is necessary for a strong and enduring trade agenda. The bipartisan legislation we passed not only sends a strong message on Congress’s willingness to build a stronger trade partnership with Taiwan, but also clearly reasserts Congress’s role in the process. The legislation provides for congressional approval of the first trade agreement arising from the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade; calls for “the negotiation [with Taiwan] of high-standard, enforceable trade agreements that are meaningful to both the United States and Taiwan;” and imposes new congressional consultation and transparency requirements on the Administration with respect to the negotiation of any subsequent agreements arising under the Initiative.
Deepening our ties with Taiwan and its vibrant democracy is important for strengthening our long-term partnership, and Idaho businesses and producers stand to gain from improved access into Taiwan’s market. Taiwan currently has the better deal, because its tariffs are higher than the United States’ tariffs. We have every opportunity to build market access if the Biden Administration works constructively with Congress to promote market access and regulatory cooperation.
Assertive American trade policy unleashes America’s talent and productivity. Our country should be actively engaged in removing high tariffs and unscientific restrictions that penalize America’s farmers and ranchers; breaking down barriers that stifle manufacturing exports; bolstering rather than waiving U.S intellectual property rights; and shelving measures that unreasonably target the U.S. digital economy. The Administration should be consulting Congress every step of the way, not bypassing the American people, as U.S. trade policy is strongest when the Administration and Congress work together. The Administration should recognize it is now time to negotiate real agreements with market access. Taiwan is a great place to start for the nation and Idaho.
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