US, Taiwan to deepen trade ties, plan June meeting in Washington

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The United States and Taiwan have unveiled a new plan to deepen trade relations with a focus on ending forced labor and ‘harmful non-market policies and practices’ as Washington and Beijing vie for influence in the region .

The plan – known as the US-Taiwanese Initiative on Trade in the 21st Century – aims to “develop an ambitious roadmap for negotiations to reach agreements with high-level commitments” in areas such as as trade facilitation, regulatory practices, agriculture, anti-corruption. and support small businesses, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in a statement Wednesday.

The Biden administration’s latest effort to assert its position in Asia follows the announcement in May of its Indo-Pacific economic framework designed to counter China’s influence in the region. Thirteen nations have signed up to join the United States in an effort to advance resilience, fairness and competitiveness, but neither the IPEF — nor Wednesday’s initiative with Taiwan — includes a tariff reduction.

The initiative doesn’t require congressional approval because it doesn’t address market access issues, but the White House isn’t ruling out anything going forward, a senior administration official said Tuesday during a briefing. a call with reporters.

The United States has not invited Taiwan to join the framework, even after more than 50 senators wrote to President Joe Biden last month urging him to include the government in Taipei. The new initiative allows for greater personalization of the conversation and unique characteristics of the U.S.-Taiwanese business relationship, the official said, adding that the administration is taking an adaptable approach to participation in IPEF.

One area of ​​discussion, “harmful” non-market policies and practices, indicates that the United States will seek to continue to pressure Taiwan’s central bank to cease its interventions in the foreign exchange markets aimed at “smoothing out” the island’s currency, a long-term problem. point of friction between the two governments.

President Tsai Ing-wen said in a Facebook post that her government was looking forward to deepening economic ties with the United States and hoped the talks would eventually lead to a bilateral trade deal, a long-standing goal for Taipei. .

United States interactions with Taiwan are all unofficial and occur through the American Institute for Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States. China’s communist government has protested Washington’s deepening bilateral engagement, including “discussing or signing agreements with sovereignty implications” with the island, which it considers part of its territory although he never controls her.

“If the United States insists on playing the Taiwan card, it will only lead China-US relations to a precarious state,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Thursday during a briefing. press in Beijing.

The first meeting under the initiative will likely be held later this month in Washington, the USTR said.

The new plan will be executed in conjunction with other efforts such as the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and Technology, Trade and Investment Collaboration which Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has announced. announced on Tuesday that it would be restarted.

She described Taiwan as “an essential trading partner” of the United States, with the island being a key supplier of currently rare microchips in the world.

The United States is not alone in seeking closer trade ties with Taiwan. The European Union is expected to discuss supply chains, export controls and foreign direct investment in its annual trade and investment talks with Taiwan on Thursday, according to a statement from the Taipei representative office to the Chinese government. EU and Belgium.

(Updated with comments from Taiwan and China officials in the seventh, eighth, and ninth paragraphs.)

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