US and Taiwan plan trade talks despite tension with China

Beijing criticises move as Washington claims trade developments do not change 'One China' policy

Officials said the talks will be for the purpose of reaching agreements with 'high-standard commitments and economically meaningful outcomes'. Bloomberg
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The US and Taiwan have agreed to start trade talks under a new initiative to reach agreements with “economically meaningful outcomes”.

Washington and Taipei unveiled the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade in June, days after President Joe Biden's administration excluded the Chinese-claimed island from its Asia-focused economic plan designed to counter Beijing's growing influence.

The office of the US Trade Representative said the two sides had “reached consensus on the negotiating mandate” and it was expected that the first round of talks would take place early this autumn.

“We plan to pursue an ambitious schedule for achieving high-standard commitments and meaningful outcomes covering the 11 trade areas in the negotiating mandate that will help build a fairer, more prosperous and resilient 21st-century economy,” Deputy US Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi said in a statement.

Taiwan's top trade negotiator, John Deng, told reporters in Taipei he hoped talks could start next month, and that this could one day lead to the free trade deal the island has long sought with the US.

The negotiating mandate released along with the announcement said the US and Taiwan had set a robust agenda for talks on issues such as trade facilitation, good regulatory practices and removing discriminatory barriers to commerce.

It said the beginning of the formal talks would be for the purpose of reaching agreements with “high-standard commitments and economically meaningful outcomes”.

Despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties, the US has been keen to bolster support for Taiwan, especially as it faces stepped-up political pressure from China to accept its sovereignty claims.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war and have no official relations but are bound by billions of dollars of trade and investment.

Mr Biden’s co-ordinator for the Indo-Pacific region, Kurt Campbell, said last week that trade talks would “deepen our ties with Taiwan” but stressed Washington's “One China” policy wasn’t changing.

China has stated its opposition to the new Taiwan-US trade initiative.

Foreign ministry representative Wang Wenbin told reporters in Beijing that China opposed any country signing official trade deals with Taiwan, and he called on the US to stop its engagement with the island.

“China will take resolute measures to uphold its national sovereignty and territorial integrity. We advise the United States stop making misjudgements,” he said.

Also on Thursday, Taiwan’s military held a drill with missiles and cannons simulating a response to a Chinese missile attack.

News agencies contributed to this report

Updated: August 18, 2022, 4:38 PM