What do the new trade talks with Taiwan mean for PF at NSDA Nationals?

Related: Taiwan Daily Update  Taiwan Evidence File (updated through 6-2-22, 330 pages)

On Tuesday, “the United States and Taiwan launched talks on Wednesday (Jun 1) aimed at deepening their trade ties.” Reuters

“The first meeting under the initiative will be held in Washington later in June, and will cover customs procedures and regulations, including rules governing agriculture trade, worker rights and the fight against “harmful non-market policies.”  Another administration official said the goal is to produce a “high framework, binding agreement”, but gave no timeframe for reaching a deal” Channel News Asia

“It is a precursor to signing a free trade agreement, Taiwan’s trade representative John Deng said at a news conference on Wednesday.”  CNN

[Details: United States and Taiwan Announce the Launch of the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade.]

What does this mean for debates at NSDA Nationals?

I have some preliminary thoughts in no particular order.

(1) The, “US-China Relations” Con arguments are non-unique — “China on Thursday (Jun 2) said it “firmly opposes” trade talks between the United States and Taiwan after Taipei and Washington announced the launch of a new initiative to deepen economic ties.” Channel News Asia.

(2) Pro teams could argue that current talks alienate China but that the talks don’t solve market access – “Like the earlier trade agreement, the discussions with Taiwan will not involve tariffs or market access – items that would require congressional approval, US officials said.”

Pro teams could claim unique advantages to market access and tariff reduction by arguing (possibly) that a “comprehensive’ agreement requires Congressional approval. This means the Con’s best argument (relations) is non-unique, but the Pro’s market access advantages are unique.

“Whereas closer engagement with Taiwan through trade negotiations would encourage even greater access to Taiwan’s market and would benefit both security and economic growth for the United States, Taiwan, and the Indo-Pacific region;

Whereas it is essential that a free trade agreement negotiated between the United States and Taiwan lower tariff and nontariff barriers to trade, including meaningfully expanded access to agricultural markets and ensuring that science-based standards govern international trade in animals and animal products;” Senator Toomey

““Building closer ties between the United States and Taiwan is a strategic win for both, and this initiative is a good first step towards enhancing our trade relationship with one of the world’s most important economic regions. However, the initiative currently excludes market access provisions – including bilateral import tax cuts – that are traditionally the cornerstone of free trade agreements. Without market access, the direct benefits of this initiative for American workers, manufacturers, and consumers will be limited.”  Senator Toomey

Market access would benefit the US economy and enable Pro teams to take advantage of a framework that argues that US should prioritize its own interests.

(3) Pro teams could argue that that in the status quo Biden will not involve Congress, which threatens Congress’ role in negotiating free trade agreements.

“Whereas the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (19 U.S.C. 4201 et seq.) enables the President to negotiate reciprocal reductions of nontariff barriers while preserving the authority of Congress over foreign trade as required by section 8 of article I of the Constitution of the United States;

Whereas the procedures laid out in the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 were designed by Congress to maintain the sovereignty of Congress over trade; and

Whereas, for legislation implementing a trade agreement to qualify for trade authorities procedures under the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, the trade agreement is required to make progress toward achieving the applicable objectives, policies, and priorities set forth by Congress in that Act, and failure by the administration of a President to adhere to the trade negotiating objectives and notification and consultation requirements established by Congress renders a trade agreement ineligible for fast-track consideration: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that the United States should initiate negotiations to enter into a free trade agreement with Taiwan.” Senator Toomey

(4) Involving Congress also makes the agreement more durable and doesn’t require an abuse of executive power.

“Further, I am concerned that the Biden Administration appears to be following the Trump Administration’s lead in pursuing an ‘executive agreement’ that would not require approval by Congress and could be amended or revoked by executive fiat. In order to ensure a lasting trade relationship that provides crucial economic certainty to importers and exporters alike, the administration should submit to Congress for approval any trade agreement it negotiates with Taiwan.” Senator Toomey

There is entire body of literature that debates the desirability of executive agreements and I will work on organizing our back files on this.  Understanding Executive Agreements. Related: The Use and Abuse of Executive Agreements; Treaties vs Executive Agreements; The Failed Transparency Regime for Executive Agreements: An Empirical and Normative Analysis; Executive Agreements: International Lawmaking Without Accountability?; Executive Agreements: Beyond Constitutional
Limits?; Law as Treaties?: The Constitutionality of Congressional-Executive AgreementsWhy Certain Trade Agreements Are Approved as Congressional-Executive Agreements Rather Than as Treaties

(5) If the Con can win that the status quo talks involve creating a “comprehensive trade agreement,”the Con could argue that we should discontinue these talks, which would improve relations with China.  “Trade dialogues “disrupt peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” said a foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian. He called on Washington to “stop negotiating agreements with Taiwan that have sovereign connotations and official nature.” AP News

If Con teams win that the likely status quo agreement is a “comprehensive trade agreement,” they could argue that that they stop a bad executive agreement.

(6) What is a “comprehensive” agreement. Generally, I think we know it means it covers all or nearly all issues, but does a “comprehensive” agreement have to include Congressional action and/or “market access” (which requires legislation)? If it does, the Pro can argue for a “comprehensive agreement” that includes market access and Congressional action. If it doesn’t, it may be fair ground for the Con to argue the status quo is bad.

(7) If the Con argues we should reverse the current talks, the Pro could argue that will hurt the economy – “The United States is currently Taiwan’s second largest trading partner, and Taiwan is the tenth largest trading partner of the United States in goods and the eleventh largest trading partner overall.

  • Trade with Taiwan supports an estimated 208,000 United States jobs according to estimates of the United States Department of Commerce as of 2015.
  • Bilateral trade in goods between Taiwan and the United States increased from $62,000,000,000 in 2010 to $86,000,000,000 in 2019, according to the United States Census Bureau.” Senator Toomey

(8) Both sides could consider “Politics” arguments, which aren’t common in PF but have been argued there.  “Washington is vying to bolster its influence in the region to counter Beijing and US President Joe Biden is coming under bipartisan pressure from US lawmakers to deepen ties with Taiwan.” Channel News Asia. Pro teams could argue this would be politically popular, strengthen Biden as he fights for a slimmed-down version of Build Back Better or any other legislative items (Gun Control perhaps). Con teams could argue that pushing a free trade agreement through Congress will cost Biden political capital that he needs for these same agenda items.  DebateUS! Free politics cards. Scenarios.

(9) Bottom Line(s)

Pro —   Pro teams should argue that the China-US relations/conflict arguments are non-unique because of the pending free trade agreement but that we need agreement that  “comprehensive” agreement that includes market access in order to protect the US economy. Since market access provisions require Congressional ratification, Pro teams can also claim congressional involvement good/executive agreements bad arguments.

Con — The Con is a bit tougher. Con teams either need to argue that the status quo is producing a comprehensive free trade agreement and that that is bad OR develop an argument as to why Congressional involvement is uniquely worse for relations with China and/or that pushing through Congress will hurt Biden’s political capital and reduce the change of passage of other agenda items.

On a related update note…

Any con, “FTA bad” arguments are non-unique, as “President Joe Biden announced Monday (May 23) in Tokyo that 13 countries have joined a new, US-led Asia-Pacific trade initiative touted as a counterweight to China’s aggressive expansion in the region.”  Channel News Asia