As President Trump pursues bilateral free-trade agreements with Japan and South Korea, one East Asian country has fallen off the radar: Taiwan. This lapse may prove economically and strategically costly for the U.S.
The Trump administration’s obsession with bilateral trade deals, rather than multilateral agreements, is controversial. But its ambitions to secure better terms of trade while deepening strategic partnerships with China’s rivals should not be. A trade deal with Taiwan would advance both objectives splendidly.
For a small, diplomatically isolated country, Taiwan plays an outsize role in global trade, especially in strategically vital sectors like communication technologies, chemicals and transportation. Taiwan is America’s 11th-largest trading partner, with two-way trade approaching $90 billion annually, according to the American Institute in Taiwan. The island nation attracted more than $24 billion in foreign direct investment from the U.S. in 2016, and it’s also America’s seventh-largest export market for agricultural goods. A free-trade agreement with Taipei would significantly expand commerce with a country that does not threaten U.S. interests.