Vol. 2, Issue 26
The Global Taiwan Brief Volume 2, Issue 26
US-Taiwan Economic Relations After the SelectUSA Investment Summit
By: Russell Hsiao
Taiwan’s Business Diaspora in South Asia and Southeast Asia
By: David An
Why the Loss of Panama Could Reinvigorate Taiwan’s Diplomacy
By: Bryce Barros
A Decision on Arms Sales for Taiwan is Needed
By: David G. Brown
US-Taiwan Economic Relations After the SelectUSA Investment Summit
Russell Hsiao is the executive director of the Global Taiwan Institute and the editor-in-chief of the Global Taiwan Brief.
On June 20, the US government concluded its fourth SelectUSA Investment Summit. Organized by the Department of Commerce since 2014, this year’s confab broke the record for total registrations and participating international business representatives. Indeed, “more than 3,000 people registered for the Investment Summit, including 1,200 business representatives from 64 foreign markets.” Of this total, Taiwan’s delegation was its largest ever, with 140 delegates from 84 companies; it was second only to the Chinese delegation with 155 members and ahead of Japan’s 121 delegates.
Underscoring the high-profiled representation of Asian economies at the Investment Summit, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross explicitly acknowledged the record number of delegates in his opening remarks. “This is a year of many SelectUSA records … a report [sic] number of Chinese and Japanese attendees with 155 from China and 121 from Japan respectively. The Department of Commerce is proud to host such a large and diverse group of executives, investors, foreign and domestic delegations, ambassadors and economic development professionals,” said Secretary Ross. Indeed, China and Japan sent the first and third largest delegation to ever participate in the summit, respectively. Despite sending the second largest delegation, Taiwan was not mentioned in the secretary’s remarks—an omission that some observers saw as a snub emblematic of Taiwan’s unfair treatment, even by its primary security partner and second largest trading partner.
Taiwan’s delegation this year was headed by National Policy Advisor to the president, Ho Mei-Yueh (何美玥). Ho’s delegation was twice as large as the previous year’s, led by former Taiwan External Trade Development Council Chairman Francis Liang (梁國新)—now the country’s representative to Singapore. Ho, who previously served as minister for economics (2004-06), was President Tsai Ing-wen’s initial pick to serve as head of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and a close confidante of the president. On the sidelines of the summit, Ho reportedly held meetings with senior US officials, including participating in a business summit attended by the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Asia at the National Security Council, Matthew Pottinger, and AIT Chairman James Moriarty. Acting Commerce Undersecretary Israel Hernandez also attended another function for the Taiwanese delegation.
A key function held in conjunction with the Investment Summit was organized by the US-Taiwan Business Council, which helps to develop trade and business relations between the United States and Taiwan. On June 19, the Council co-hosted the US-Taiwan Business Forum with the Taipei Economic & Cultural Representative Office (TECRO). In a press release, Council President Rupert Hammond-Chambers noted that:
This annual Forum examines the important role that Taiwan plays in the global economy, as well as the close relationship between the US and Taiwan business communities. The significant business and commercial relationship between the US and Taiwan is a crucial piece of the overall bilateral relationship, and the Forum allows us to explore ways to deepen cooperation, establish new relationships between businesses, and encourage action on bilateral, multilateral, and global trade issues.
Taiwan is currently the United States’ 10th largest goods trading partner, with $65.4 billion in total goods traded during 2016. While the US trade deficit in goods with Taiwan was valued at $13.27 billion in 2016, the United States enjoyed a surplus in trade in services of $4.2 billion over the same year. Although the apparent imbalance in volume is not insignificant, according to US Census Bureau data compiled by the US-Taiwan Business Council, Taiwan’s percentage share of the total US trade deficit only accounted for 1.81 percent—by comparison, China commands the lion’s share of the US trade deficit at 47.24 percent. Moreover, Taiwan and US customs statistics differ as to the extent of the Taiwan’s trade surplus with the United States. According to Taiwan Custom Statistics, its trade surplus with the United States was only $4.93 billion in 2016. This is close to an $8 billion difference. Given the huge discrepancy between the two figures, there is an important role for think tanks and industry to play in harmonizing the metrics used to calculate trade surplus and establishing standards to minimize political misunderstanding about the fairness of the economic relationship.
Perhaps as a sign of the Tsai administration’s effort to narrow the trade gaps and improve economic relations with the United States, Ho announced at a press conference that new investments from Taiwan into the United States could possibly top $34 billion. In a similar tone of optimism about the future of US-Taiwan trade relations, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman James Moriarty proclaimed that there has “‘never been a better time than now to resolve outstanding bilateral issues’ if economic reform is to make major advances toward economic liberalization.” Indeed, the political stars seem more aligned than ever before in Taiwan domestically and internationally as both the executive branch and legislature are now controlled by the same party, and the Trump administration has signaled its interest to look at ways to upgrade the trade relationship. Yet, as former AIT Deputy Director Robert Wang noted: “The question then is where Taiwan will rank in terms of US trade policy priorities.”
Indeed, there are many challenges ahead. President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) notwithstanding, the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) recently announced the initial results of the 100-day action plan on trade that the two leaders agreed to back in April at Mar-a-Lago. Among other things, this plan included China allowing imports of US beef by no later than than July 16, 2017.
Beijing’s decision to allow the import of US beef shines the spotlight on a longstanding sticking point in the US-Taiwan trade relationship. Taiwan has barred the imports of US beef and pork that contain ractopamine—because of perceived potential health risks. Taipei, however, permitted the import of US beef in 2012 after a United Nations food standards-setting body adopted, by a narrow margin, maximum limits for ractopamine in beef and pork. Taipei still maintains a ban on US pork.
On May 18, the Department of Commerce held a public hearing, pursuant to Executive Order 13786, in which Taiwan was the subject of investigation because it was identified by the Trump administration as among 14 other trading partners with which the United States had a significant trade deficit in 2016. The public hearing and comments will go towards preparing an Omnibus Report on Significant Trade Deficits (Report). According to public comments submitted by the US-Taiwan Business Council in response: “[US trade with Taiwan] is not a ‘zero sum’ endeavor where US exports should be counted as wins and imports from Taiwan should be counted as losses—particularly as the official trade deficit data does not cover the entirety of the complex trade relationship between the two partners.”
The AIT Chairman further noted that if the two sides were able to use bilateral mechanisms like the Taiwan Investment and Framework Agreement (TIFA) to resolve trade issues, it would help to “foster stronger and closer trade relationships.” TIFA—established in 1994—is the primary bilateral mechanism for trade dialogue between Taiwan and the United States. The last Taiwan Investment and Framework Agree (TIFA) meeting was held in October 2016. At the last meeting, the two sides reportedly made progress in areas such as intellectual property rights protection, market access for pharmaceuticals, improvement in the investment regime, and agricultural trade. The 11th meeting may be held as soon as this summer in Taiwan. While progress on negotiations between the USTR and Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs to upgrade the trade relationship have reportedly stalled over the pork issue, they now face the looming 100-day action plan. Just as Beijing has done with US arms sales to Taiwan, Beijing’s apparent strategy appear to be to crowd out the agenda of the United States so that it may never be a good time to work with Taiwan.
The main point: Despite sending the second largest delegation, Taiwan was not mentioned in the secretary’s opening remarks at this year’s SelectUSA Investment Summit—an omission that some observers saw as a snub emblematic of Taiwan’s unfair treatment. Just as it has tried to do with arms sales to Taiwan, Beijing’s strategy appear to be to crowd out the agenda of the United States so that it may never be a good time to do something on Taiwan.
 The Prospects of U.S.-Taiwan Economic Relations under the Trump Administration Taiwan’s Viewpoint, June 20th, 2017, Washington, D.C. (printed handout provided to attendees of the US-Taiwan Business Forum).
Update: On Day 2 of the Investment Summit, Secretary Ross acknowledged the top ten delegations to the 2017 SelectUSA Investment Summit and included Taiwan: “And huge contributors to this success have been our top ten delegations from China, Taiwan, Japan, India, Canada, Brazil, Korea, Italy, Turkey, and Germany.”
Taiwan’s Business Diaspora in South Asia and Southeast Asia
David An is a senior research fellow at the Global Taiwan Institute and was previously a political military officer at the US Department of State.
Long before the Tsai government announced her administration’s trademark New Southbound Policy (新南向政策) a year ago, Taiwanese businesses had already invested over $80 billion in the South and Southeast Asia regions from the 1950s to 2015. Taiwan’s businesses have set up countless fisheries, as well as electronics, machinery, textiles, and shoe manufacturing facilities in the region. The size of the Taiwanese business community in these countries averages in the thousands, and is as large as 150,000 people in Thailand. In the past, mutually beneficial economic relations have provided space for Taiwan to overcome immense political obstacles when working with other countries. Taiwan’s businesses are now facing growing political pressure from China and the future of Taiwan’s businesses in the region is increasingly precarious.
The Taiwanese business landscape in the region was constructed over the past seven decades:
- In Vietnam, Taiwanese businesses have invested $30 billion in the textile, shoe, and bicycle industries; the local Taiwanese business community consists of around 60,000 people.
- In Indonesia, Taiwanese businesses have invested $17 billion, mostly in the furniture, textile, and shoe industries; the local business population includes 10,000 Taiwanese people.
- In Thailand, Taiwanese businesses have invested $13.9 billion, predominantly in machines and electronics, as well as the chemical industry; there are around 150,000 people in the Taiwanese business community.
- In Malaysia, Taiwanese businesses have invested $12 billion, predominantly in machines and electronics; the local Taiwanese business population consists of around 40,000 people.
- In Singapore, Taiwanese businesses have invested $11 billion, mainly in the machinery, electronics, and chemical industries, establishing it as a regional transportation hub; there is a local Taiwanese business community of 15,000 people.
- In the Philippines, Taiwanese businesses have invested $2.2 billion in the machinery and electronics industries; the local business community is made up of roughly 6,000 people.
- In India, Taiwan has invested $1.5 billion in a diverse range of industries to include communications, machinery, trade, transportation, engineering, metallics, shoes, fisheries, and finance.
- In Cambodia, Taiwanese businesses have invested $1.1 billion, predominantly in the textiles industry; the local business community includes around 600 Taiwanese people.
- In Brunei, Taiwanese businesses have invested $770 million in fish feed and trade; there is a local Taiwanese business community of 30 people.
- In Myanmar, Taiwanese businesses have invested $356 million, mostly focused on agriculture, optics, and construction material, and there are around 450 people in the local Taiwanese business community.
- In Laos, Taiwanese businesses have invested $4 million, mostly in the furniture and textiles industries, and there is a local Taiwanese business population of around 200 people.
There are aspects of Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy that are more vulnerable to Beijing’s pressure. These are evident in the four immediate tasks of the New Southbound Policy, which include plans for Taiwan officials to work with the host countries in South and Southeast Asia to: hold high-level exchanges, collaborate with foreign think tanks, sign or renew bilateral investment agreements, and implement other major projects such as hosting expos and exchange student programs.
These tasks are vulnerable to triangular politics, since China consistently blocks Taiwan’s foreign relations through a mix of incentives and disincentives directed at any country that seeks cooperation with Taiwan. Beijing demarches Taiwan’s partners on a regular basis. This is evident in the PRC Foreign Ministry’s official position: “We have always been firmly opposed to any form of official contact with Taiwan from the countries that have established diplomatic relations with China, and between official organizations” (“我們歷來堅決反對與中國建交的國家同台灣方面進行任何形式的官方接觸與往來，互設任何具有官方性質的機構”) It continues by saying it hopes its diplomatic partners will, “respect and understand China’s core concerns and adhere to the One China Principle” (“尊重和理解中方核心關切，堅持一個中國原則“).
In past decades, Taiwan’s businesses in Southeast Asia have not been are vulnerable to triangular politics between Taiwan, China, and a host country, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, or others. The PRC is now putting more political pressure on Taiwan’s economic partners in Southeast Asia. Both sides publicly tussle over diplomatic partners, and there are early signs of friction between Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The question is whether Taiwan’s business diaspora will continue to endure as they have over the past seven decades; only time will tell if Taiwan’s businesses are being edged out by competitors for political reasons.
Main point: Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy is built on a foundation of decades of Taiwanese business investment and success in the region, but this foundation may be susceptible to growing political pressure from the PRC in South and Southeast Asia.
Why the Loss of Panama Could Reinvigorate Taiwan’s Diplomacy
Bryce is a Master Program in International Affairs Candidate at Texas A&M University Bush School of Government and Public Service, and a former exchange student at the Republic of China Military Academy in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Taiwan was left in a diplomatic void following the loss of its seat as the Republic of China (ROC) at the United Nations in 1971, followed by its de-recognition by the United States in 1979. Taiwan’s presidents— like Chiang Kai-Shek (蔣介石), Chiang Ching-Kuo (蔣經國), and Lee Tung-hui (李登輝)—had to forge a path through the thickets of international isolation created by the island’s ambiguous diplomatic status. From the 1980s forward, the island began the processes of democratization, “Taiwanization,” and “pragmatic diplomacy” in order to engage with the world.
Since Tsai Ing-wen was elected president, three countries have switched diplomatic recognition to the Peoples’s Republic of China (PRC): The Gambia, São Tomé and Príncipe, and most recently Panama. Instead of viewing these losses as a blow to Taiwan’s diplomatic prowess—the Taiwanese government could embrace this shock as the Japanese did when Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s fleet of Black Ships arrived in 1853. Just like the arrival of Commodore Perry helped sow the seeds for the Meiji Restoration, this may be an opportunity for Taiwan’s leaders to think critically about the shortfalls of its diplomatic efforts and reevaluate its attempts to compete with the People’s Republic of China’s “checkbook diplomacy.”
Rather than competing symmetrically with the PRC for diplomatic recognition on the international stage, Taiwan should seek to deepen defense, diplomatic and economic ties with other countries in the Asia-Pacific, specifically with Japan, Singapore, Australia, India, and the United States to counterbalance against Chinese encroachment. By forging deeper unofficial diplomatic ties with these countries, Taiwan can strengthen its position in the international community and reinforce its defense readiness. Taiwan can use its openness, unique democratic values, and progressive/socially liberal causes to its advantage.
Under Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s premiership, defense, unofficial diplomatic relations, and economic relations between Japan and Taiwan have strengthened. This led Japan and Taiwan to sign agreements on how to manage fishing rights (and avoid potential Coast Guard clashes) in the Diaoyutai/Senkakus dispute. The Japan-Taiwan relationship can also be deepened through the sharing of command and control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and Japanese technical assistance with Taiwan’s indigenous defense industry, especially for Taiwan’s submarines. In addition, Prime Minister Abe and the Diet could seek a Japan-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement.
Earlier this year—emblematic of the deepening of Taiwan-Japan ties—the quasi-official organization that represents Taiwanese interests in Japan changed its name from the Association of East Asian Relations (亞東關係協會) to the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association (台灣日本關係協會). To reciprocate, the Japanese changed their corresponding quasi-official organization’s name from the Interchange Association, Japan (日本国財団法人交流協会) to the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association (日本台湾交流協会). According to Taiwan’s Foreign Minister David Lee, the names were changed to reflect the desire for higher-level relations between Japan and Taiwan.
Singapore has played a very important, yet low-key, role in cross-Strait relations after the island-state gained its independence in 1965. Late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was known for his close relationship with President Chiang Kai-Shek and his son, President Chiang Ching-Kuo. This relationship culminated with the founding of Project Starlight (星光計畫), which has served as the backdrop for Singaporean-Taiwanese defense ties. In exchange for access to military bases in Taiwan for training, the Singaporean Armed Forces and their Taiwanese counterparts train together as well. This training exercise came under fire last year when nine Singaporean Terrex Armored Personnel Carriers were impounded in Hong Kong by PRC authorities while transiting from Taiwan to Singapore. Nonetheless, Singaporean-Taiwanese defense ties remain strong. Additionally, in 2013 Singapore and Taiwan finalized the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP). ASTEP serves as a Free Trade Agreement between both islands.
Relations between Australia and Taiwan are often determined by the former’s relationship with Beijing. However, Australia and Taiwan both share strong security ties with the United States and Japan. In the event of hostilities between China and Taiwan, Australia’s decision to act will depend as much on what happens in Tokyo and Washington, DC, as it will on how much it values its economic ties with Beijing. Australia’s participation in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with India, Japan, and the United States could work in Taiwan’s favor. Although Australia’s security relationship with the United States has come into question since the election of Donald Trump, there are several areas in which Australia and Taiwan could deepen ties. According to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia and Taiwan share strong people-to-people links and trade relations. This has taken the form of the Australian New Colombo Plan Scholarships for young Australians to study abroad in Taiwan and working holidays for Taiwanese in Australia. Economic ties remain robust, especially with regard to rare minerals and petroleum from Australia and electronics from Taiwan.
Since President Tsai came into office, India has played an important role in the New Southbound Policy. The goal of this policy is to enhance “trade and economic ties with countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.” India and Taiwan are uniquely placed to upgrade their unofficial relations for several reasons: 1) both are among Asia’s most dynamic democracies; 2) both maintain friendly and cordial relations with the West; 3) both are deeply religious, sharing cultural ties via Buddhism and Hinduism; 4) India’s new Act East Policy (a continuation of the Look East Policy) complements President Tsai’s New Southbound Policy; and 5) both wish to counterbalance Chinese dominance of the Asia-Pacific to varying degrees. The most complicated area of cooperation between India and Taiwan will be in defense. India recently became a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and probably does not want to agitate Beijing. However, cultural, economic, and unofficial diplomatic ties can all be expanded.
After the Trump administration took power, there was a great deal of excitement among US Asia-Pacific defense specialists that there would be a golden opportunity to reinvigorate ties between the US and Taiwan. Speculation was fueled by op-eds from close advisors such as Dr. Peter Navarro and Trump’s phone call with President Tsai Ing-Wen. However, these incidents aside, there are many ways that Taiwan can strengthen its relationship with the US to counteract losing official diplomatic allies. Since the latter period of the Obama administration, and the ascension of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to office, once low-key defense exchanges between the US and Taiwan have become more public. For example, during Taiwan’s WWII Victory Parade, American military advisors were invited to publicly sit on the review stand. The United States can also assist Taiwan with its indigenous defense industry, particularly in submarine development. In addition, this administration has stated on several occasions the importance of the US-Taiwan relationship. Thus, this Congress or this Administration could deepen economic ties through a US-Taiwan free trade agreement.
Instead of viewing the loss of Panama, São Tomé and Príncipe, and The Gambia as a blow to national prestige, Taiwan should take it for what it is—a lesson that the pragmatic diplomacy of the early 1990s is outdated. Taiwan should seek to deepen defense, diplomatic and economic ties with other countries in the Asia-Pacific, specifically Australia, India, Japan, Singapore, and United States to counterbalance Chinese encroachment on Taiwan’s international space. The maintenance of diplomatic allies in the South Pacific, Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe should continue, but strengthening ties to powerful neighbors and potential partners in the Asia-Pacific should be prioritized.
Taiwanese should take solace that the loss of Panama does not necessarily translate into a domino-effect wherein the island’s 20 remaining allies will switch diplomatic recognition to China. Panama was a unique case for Beijing, due to the importance of the Panama Canal and growing Chinese investment in the small country. However, Taipei should learn from this incident. The loss of Panama can serve to reinvigorate the island’s strategic thinking about how best to maintain its presence on the international stage—officially and unofficially—by deepening unofficial ties with larger partners in the Asia-Pacific.
The main point: The loss of official relations with Panama should serve as a lesson for Taiwan that the pragmatic diplomacy of the early 1990s is outdated. Taiwan should seek to deepen defense, diplomatic and economic ties with other countries in the Asia-Pacific, specifically Australia, India, Japan, Singapore, and United States to counterbalance Chinese encroachment on Taiwan’s international space.
Correction: An earlier version of this article inaccurately noted that Taiwan lost diplomatic relations with The Gambia after Tsai Ing-wen was elected president in January 2016. In fact, The Gambia broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 2013 but re-established diplomatic ties with the PRC in March 2016.
A Decision on Arms Sales for Taiwan is Needed
David G. Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an adjunct professor of China Studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He also writes the China-Taiwan chapter in Comparative Connections, Pacific Forum CSIS’s triannual journal on regional relations.
The delay in approving arms sales to Taiwan is undermining US interests. The US has not approved new arms for Taiwan since December 2015. The Obama administration was considering a modest package in late 2016. After Hillary Clinton lost the election, the administration chose not to go forward with the package, however. Despite early indications that the Trump administration was considering a more robust package of arms, no notification has been made to Congress.
As president-elect, Donald Trump conducted an unprecedented phone conversation with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. Many interpreted this as an indication the new administration would pursue a friendlier approach toward Taipei. However, after Trump’s Mar-a-Lago summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the administration’s tone has changed. In an interview with Reuters, Trump was asked about another call with Tsai. Trump replied that he had “a very good relationship with President Xi…and would want to speak to him first.” This indicated that relations with Taiwan would be constrained by Trump’s hope for Chinese cooperation on North Korea. No previous administration had made such a tradeoff between our Taiwan and North Korean interests.
Recognizing how such a linkage damages US credibility, Secretary of Defense Mattis subsequently included in his address to the Shangri-la Dialogue a clear restatement of our commitment to supply Taiwan with defense articles in keeping with the Taiwan Relations Act. Secretary of State Tillerson has reassured the Congress that the US intends to keep its commitments to Taiwan.
There is no doubt that Taiwan requires additional defense articles. What should be sold is a matter of debate, but the fundamental fact is that the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) capabilities against Taiwan continue to expand. The PLA defense budget is now about 14 times larger than Taiwan’s. The Department of Defense’s 2017 report on security developments in the PRC concludes that, despite Taipei’s defense improvements, the defensive advantages Taiwan has enjoyed are declining.
Delaying arms sales to Taiwan is one issue that is undermining regional confidence in the US. The delay is part of a pattern of actions or inactions by the Trump administration that has weakened US credibility in Asia. That is why Secretary Mattis had to make so many specific reassuring statements in his address in Singapore. Nevertheless, there is uncertainty about whether those words will be implemented or overruled by the president, as has happened on other issues. Consequently, the notification to Congress of new arms sales is essential to putting these doubts to rest. In the meantime, inaction feeds uncertainty.
Since President Trump tweeted about “one China” last December, the Taiwan media has been full of commentary questioning whether the US is reliable. Not surprisingly, the pro-PRC media has argued that, since Trump will treat Taiwan as a bargaining chip, it is foolish for Taiwan to rely on the US and that greater accommodation with Beijing is required. Even some commentators well disposed toward the US have said that the more volatile environment under Trump is a new reality. The delay in announcing new arms sales has been cited as evidence of Washington’s declining reliability. Taiwan’s 2017 Ministry of Defense Quadrennial Defense Report released in May stated for the first time that US policy toward Taiwan “remains to be seen.”
Trump’s belief that his good relations with Xi require him to consult Beijing about Taiwan is based on a flawed understanding of China. China respects power and a consistent commitment to one’s principles. Consequently, successive US administrations have sought to convince Beijing that the peaceful settlement of cross-strait differences is a matter of principle for the US. The tradeoff of one US interest for another will only lead Beijing to conclude that the Washington does not have any principles. By indicating that relations with Taiwan can be traded away for Beijing’s support on North Korea, Trump has damaged the US interest with respect to maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait.
The delays in arms sales decisions could be avoided if the US government adopted a practice of regularly approving sales rather than accumulating items into packages that are more politically sensitive to Beijing. Although the wisdom of this has been recognized both in and out of government for at least two decades, successive administrations have been unable to implement regular approvals.
Given the president’s penchant for changing his views and given the uncertainty of who can speak with authority for his administration, it is truer than ever that action speaks louder than words. An early notification of new arms for Taiwan is necessary to put to rest doubts that are undermining the credibility of US support for Taiwan’s security.
The main point: The delays in arms sales decisions could be avoided if the US government adopted a practice of regularly approving sales rather than accumulating items into packages that are more politically sensitive to Beijing.
(This article first appeared on the Pacific Forum/CSIS’s PacNet.)