TPP Insights from Washington DC

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Most of the reporting from the United States these days paints a bleak picture of the prospects for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement to be ratified by Congress. But at AmCham Taipei’s “TPP: Insights from Washington D.C.” luncheon event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on September 13, the speakers cautioned the audience “don’t believe everything you read.”

Speaking were Wendy Cutler, formerly the lead U.S. negotiator for TPP and now vice president and managing director of the Washington office of the Asia Society Policy Institute, and Tami Overby, senior vice president, Asia, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Although there is heightened anxiety in the United States about the country’s economic future, with trade often unfairly blamed for the loss of manufacturing jobs, polls show that a majority of Americans still support free trade in general and the TPP in particular, Cutler said. Given the high priority that President Obama has attached to TPP passage, and the continued support from most of the Congressional leadership, she said she expects ratification to occur during the lame duck session of Congress that follows the November elections.

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Citing the importance of TPP as a high-standard trade pact that will bring economic benefits while also bolstering American leadership in Asia, Overby quoted Winston Churchill as saying “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

Cutler urged the Taiwan government not to wait, but to proceed to undertake reforms to prepare to be considered for TPP entry in a second round. She noted that investors are already beginning to think in terms of a post-TPP world, choosing to locate their investments in TPP economies because of the strong IPR and legal protections.

Among the special guests at the luncheon were Minister without Portfolio John Deng, who is in charge of Taiwan’s efforts to become TPP-ready; Bureau of Foreign Trade Director-General Jen-ni Yang; Chairman Francis Liang of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA); Connie Chang, Director General of the Department of Overall Planning at the National Development Council; and Jeff Horwitz, chief of the Economic Section at the American Institute in Taiwan.

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