Former Governor Jon Huntsman (R–UT) was at The Heritage Foundation this week answering policy questions. In his talk, he emphasized budget discipline, tax reform, and education. He also made a powerful argument for free trade, stressing that we have vastly underused our international options in helping address economic challenges.
There are many such options. One of them is to promote free trade with our friendliest and most important partners. The U.S. currently has three contrasting approaches to trade. The first is protectionism, which advocates government interference to take choices away from individuals. At the other end are pure free traders, who think we should ignore what our trade partners do and, for the good of consumers and economic efficiency, keep our markets open no matter what.
The third group is those who believe in free trade but only with good partners. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is an example of a small trade group that is looking to create a high-quality agreement with (mostly) like-minded countries.
Taiwan is one such like-minded country, a long-time ally and a democracy. Remarkably, with a population of just 23 million, Taiwan is also our ninth-largest trade partner, ahead of India and Saudi Arabia and competitive with Brazil and France.
The protectionist group is a lost cause with their view of the world that should, by logic, endorse 2009 as a great year economically because the U.S. trade deficit dropped sharply. But the second and, crucially, the third group should agree that a high-quality trade pact with Taiwan is an idea whose time has come.
Whether you support free trade generally or only with our best partners, Taiwan qualifies in both cases. As President Obama eventually acknowledged, trade creates jobs and boosts prosperity.
Many political insiders see a free trade agreement with Taiwan as unrealistic. That’s unfortunate. But as more people come to share the Heritage view, a free trade agreement will move closer to reality.