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Island's High Tariffs a Sticking Point : Taiwan Trade Surplus With U.S. Still Rising

June 12, 1985|SAM JAMESON and JOHN F. LAWRENCE | Times Staff Writers

But the basic problem remains: Taiwan's $56-billion market of 19 million people remains small pickings compared to the vast North American market.

Chang King-yuk, director general of the Government Information Office, said Taiwan, like South Korea and other so-called newly industrialized countries, is providing the United States with light industrial products, most of which the United States no longer makes itself.

"Therefore, we don't believe we should curb our exports to the United States to reduce the surplus but rather we should buy more from the United States," Chang said.

Chang said Taiwan would like to buy more military weapons from the United States--it already purchases about $750 million worth, which doesn't show up in the trade statistics--and would also like to buy Alaskan oil, but the United States isn't willing to sell. Lower tariffs, particularly on cars, he added, probably would only open up Taiwan's market to more imports from the more aggressive Japanese, not from America, he said.

Becoming 'Advanced' Nation

Chang said the government expects Taiwan to reach a per-capita GNP of $6,000 by about 1990, at which point the country would be considered an advanced nation.

But other officials said they want Taiwan to continue its status as a developing country as long as possible--to receive favors such as lower duties on its exports to the United States under the generalized system of preferential tariffs, which the Reagan Administration has promised to continue until at least 1993.

Pan said: "Psychologically, we want to become an advanced nation for the sake of face. But for economic reasons, we want to remain a developing country."

Asked how long he thought Taiwan would remain a developing country, he replied: "As long as possible."

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