US election impact on Taiwan

19 November, 2020

The ECCT arranged a Premium Event lunch on the topic: “The next four years: Implications of the US election on economic & trade policies and Taiwan”. Read the full Event Report here.

 The event featured guest speakers William Brent Christensen, Director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and Dr Roy Lee, Deputy Executive Director of the Taiwan WTO & RTA Centre at the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CIER).

In his presentation, Roy Lee noted that incoming US president, Joe Biden, has already signalled that he would focus on four ‘Rs’: Repair (a divided country and its relations with the rest of the world), Rebuild (US supply chains and the eroding middle class), Re-engage with democratic allies and set a powerful example for the world and Re-adjust (especially with regard to a new Washington consensus and a competitive coexistence with China). However, it remains to be seen which of these areas will be his first priority, what policies will be devised and who Biden will appoint to key positions in his administration. Lee acknowledged that whatever policy agenda is adopted, delivery will be difficult without cooperation from congress.

On the question of China, Biden has said that he will be even tougher on China than President Trump but there are strategic dimensions of US-China economic rivalry that will inform whatever strategy the Biden administration will adopt towards China: The US will have to balance the fact that China is an enormous market for the US as well as the largest supplier of goods with the fact that it also a major geopolitical rival and a tough competitor.

As for the outlook for the next four years, despite the change in US leadership, Lee expects the world to remain basically the same. The driving forces of change will be US-China rivalry and supply chain re-configuration. This will present three major challenges for Taiwan: sustaining a major role in global supply networks, decoupling of hi-tech sectors (such semiconductors), cross-Strait tensions and re-shoring initiatives by both the US and China. At the same time, this will present opportunities given large investment relocations and the potential to attract talent. 

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