The United States and Taiwan launched bilateral trade talks on Wednesday, defying Beijing, which considers the island as one of its provinces. The launch of trade talks with Washington could thus provoke a strong reaction from the Chinese government.
The United States and Taiwan launched bilateral trade talks on Wednesday, defying Beijing, which considers the island as one of its provinces and refuses to allow it to enter into any official relationship with foreign countries. This announcement comes two days after the incursion of 30 Chinese planes into the Taiwan air defense zone, which lives under the constant threat of an invasion from China. Beijing considers this territory its own and has promised to recover it, by force if necessary.
The launch of trade talks with Washington could thus provoke a strong reaction from the Chinese government. U.S. Deputy Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi and Taiwan Minister John Deng met “virtually” and launched the “U.S.-Taiwan 21st Century Trade Initiative, with the goal of to develop concrete ways to deepen” economic and trade relations, according to a statement from the US Ambassador to Trade (USTR).
The first meeting is to be held “later this month in Washington under the auspices of Tecro”, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States and the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). Tecro represents Taiwan’s interests in the United States in the absence of formal diplomatic relations, operating as a de facto embassy.
Cooperation for the environment and facilitating agricultural trade
The objective of the initiative launched on Wednesday is to facilitate exchanges, to adopt “sound and transparent practices” or to cooperate in favor of the environment or climate action, detailed USTR. They also “intend to explore provisions aimed at facilitating agricultural trade” or to fight against corruption.
Washington and Taipei had indicated last week that they had decided to strengthen their trade relations. The United States and Taiwan have been linked since 1994 by a “framework” for trade and investment. Taipei also joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2002, which has contributed to the growth of bilateral trade. The United States is indeed Taiwan’s most important partner and arms supplier.
The next step in the economic relationship would therefore be a formal trade agreement which, for the time being, is long overdue in a complex political context. “I hope this initiative will result in a binding framework agreement,” a US administration official said in a conference call with reporters.
The United States, like most countries, does not officially recognize Taiwan, but they strongly support the island whose “democratic” status they highlight by opposing it to what they consider to be a Chinese “autocracy”. . This initiative is also launched shortly after the announcement of a new economic partnership in Asia-Pacific, announced on May 23 by President Joe Biden during a tour of Asia.
The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is not a free trade agreement, but it is meant to counterbalance China by facilitating integration between its signatory countries through the adoption of common standards in the digital sector, supply chains, green energies and the fight against corruption.
Beijing, which felt deliberately excluded, had made it clear. Washington seeks “to form small cliques in the name of freedom and openness” hoping to “contain China”, had thus criticized Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, considering the American project “doomed” to failure .
Taiwan is not yet part of the IPEF but a senior US official said it was not excluded. “We did not include Taiwan in the initial launch. However, going forward, we intend to take a flexible approach regarding participation in IPEF,” she told reporters.
She recalled Washington’s “longstanding one-China policy” but said the Biden administration also had a “strong unofficial relationship with Taiwan that it is committed to deepening.” Asked how Beijing might react to the announcement of this Taiwan-U.S. initiative, another Biden administration official said, “I’m definitely not going to speculate or speak on Beijing’s behalf.”