TAIPEI, Taiwan — Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said Thursday that Taiwan's leaders, despite the "gravity" of the U.S. trade deficit, have refused to give assurances that Taiwan will soon open its markets to U.S. goods.
Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, arrived in Taipei from the Philippines on Wednesday and met with President Chiang Ching-kuo and other officials in an overnight visit.
"Each of them understands the situation very well and is taking constructive action. But the action really has to be substantial and must be soon," Lugar said.
Asked whether he had received any indication that the Taiwanese market will be opened up to U.S. products soon, he replied: "No, I have not received the assurance I would like to receive.
"I sensed in this country there may not be quite the feeling of the gravity of the situation as I see it," he added.
Lugar said Chiang told him that Taiwan will open up its large construction projects to competition from the United States. Taiwan has 14 large projects under way, including new highways and railroads.
Lugar said Chiang also said that Taiwan will continue buying U.S. corn and wheat. But the senator made no mention of a threat by the Taiwan Corn Growers Joint Committee to boycott U.S. corn unless its U.S. counterpart gives "concrete assurances" that it would not support protectionist legislation before Congress.
The senator said Taiwan's $13-billion deficit with the United States is excessive and jeopardizes the whole trade system.
The United States is Taiwan's largest trading partner. Trade between the two nations totaled $19.5 billion last year.
"You don't need tariff barriers if you are good and if you are competitive," Lugar said.