A U.S. business group said Wednesday that Taiwan should bolster its trade ties with the U.S. to avoid becoming overly dependent on the Chinese market.
The statement by the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei comes amid Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's continuing efforts to facilitate greater trade with China since taking office in May 2008.
Under Ma, Taiwan has signed several trade agreements with China, including a wide-ranging tariff reduction deal on hundreds of products.
According to the chamber, China took 41.7 percent of Taiwan's exports and the mainland market alone accounted for half of Taiwan's economic growth last year. But critics say Ma's initiatives will eventually hurt Taiwan's economy and sovereignty.
While approving Taiwan's economic relations with China, the chamber said in its annual report that being dependent on a single market is "always risky."
"It would be prudent to combine (China) efforts with moves to strengthen trade and investment connections" with Europe, Japan, Southeast Asia and particularly the U.S., it said.
Taiwan should view U.S. trade relations "as part of its national security agenda," the chamber said. Reminding U.S. congress representatives of Taiwan's significant investment in their districts is the best way to get their attention and approval on the issue of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, it said.
The U.S. is Taiwan's most important strategic partner and sole weapon supplier. It is required by law to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons against a possible Chinese attack, a move Beijing threatens if the island moves to formalize its de facto independence.
China still claims Taiwan as its own after the two sides split amid civil war in 1949. Beijing sees U.S. arms sales and other political connections with Taiwan as interference in its domestic affairs.
With China's rising international political and economic clout, it's doubtful whether the chamber's proposal that Taiwan booost trade to get U.S. attention will produce results.
Last December, Missouri governor Jay Nixon nixed a Taiwan trip to sign an agricultural deal after a Chicago-based Chinese diplomat warned it could imperil a project by China to turn the St. Louis airport into a hub for Chinese cargo in the United States.
In Washington, the Obama administration is showing no interest in risking China's anger when it is seeking Chinese help on various pressing issues including North Korean nuclear proliferation. The U.S. administration has been delaying a decision on Taipei's repeated request for advanced F16 C/D fighter jets.