By Elliot Wang, Director General, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Atlanta
In the pursuit of a United States-Taiwan bilateral trade agreement (BTA), Taiwan’s import ban on American pork and beef remained a significant obstacle. On August 28th, President Tsai Ing-wen removed this obstacle by significantly easing US meat import restrictions, paving the way for deeper bilateral economic cooperation.
The bilateral relationship between the US and Taiwan has been substantially growing recently, in all areas. Under the Taiwan Travel Act framework, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar’s delegation to Taiwan last month marked the highest-level US official visit to Taiwan since 1979. In the past few years, the US has approved major arms sales to Taiwan valuing billions of US dollars.
And now, President Tsai has cleared the way for similar progress in the economic arena. The easing of import restrictions will help grow pork and beef exports in the Southeast US, contributing significantly to the US’s total exports for both. Georgia ranks in the top 30 for the US’s largest pork and beef producers. The opportunity for Georgia to substantially expand pork and beef exports in Taiwan is immense.
In the first half of 2020, Taiwan is already the US’s 9th largest trading partner, 7th largest importer of American agricultural products, 30th largest importer of US pork, and 6th largest importer of US beef. Currently, Taiwan is Georgia’s 19th largest export market in the world. These rankings will only improve as we seek expand bilateral economic relations, especially through a BTA.
While the ability to ramp up meat exports with increased market access in Taiwan is excellent for Georgia’s agricultural sector, many additional industries would gain from a comprehensive US-Taiwan BTA. Georgia’s strong energy, advanced manufacturing, and tourism industries would particularly thrive if a US-Taiwan BTA were accomplished, as these are all industries Taiwan maintains a distinct focus on, as well. The potential for meaningful information and technology collaboration in these industries is vast. The several thousands of jobs already supported by Taiwan in Georgia could double, triple, or multiply by even more with the opportunities presented by a BTA.
As President Tsai Ing-wen said, a BTA would allow the US and Taiwan to “capitalize on the complementarity of our industries…. [and] create more business opportunities, benefitting both sides.” As US-Taiwan relations are deepening politically and militarily, now is the perfect time to push for further economic collaboration to support additional job growth and industry development in Taiwan and Georgia.