The two sides restarted trade talks which had been stalled since 2016
Taiwan and the US restarted trade talks on Wednesday which had been stalled since former president Barack Obama left office in 2016. The two sides held the eleventh Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, or TIFA, council meeting virtually.
An Office of the United States Trade Representative said in a statement that the talks focused on “enhancing the longstanding trade and investment relationship between the United States and Taiwan.”
Taiwan’s chief trade negotiator John Deng told reporters he raised the issue of a free trade deal directly with the US during the talks. He was quoted as saying by Reuters: “We expressed to the US that Taiwan hopes to sign a trade agreement.”
The US officials in the meeting “emphasised the importance of the US-Taiwan trade and investment relationship and expressed a desire for stronger and more consistent engagement”.
A day earlier, Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen had welcomed the resumption of talks and said it marked important progress for Taiwan-US economic relations. It also signals “our shared resolve in the face of regional and global challenges,” she had said.
Taiwan is America’s ninth largest goods trading partner and a major producer of semi-conductors. The island exported billions of dollars in chips, computer and telecommunications equipment to the US last year, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Taiwan is self-governing but claimed by Beijing as a breakaway province. Any US agreement with Taiwan is likely to get a strong reaction from China.
Earlier this month, China had warned the US after the latter said it would resume economic talks with Taiwan.
China’s foreign ministry had urged Washington “to stop any form of official exchanges with Taiwan, handle the Taiwan issue cautiously, and refrain from sending any wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces”.
But the Joe Biden administration has said that its support for Taiwan is “rock solid”.
During a recent briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “Taiwan is a leading democracy and major economy and a security partner. And we will continue to strengthen our relationship across all areas — all the areas we cooperate, including on economic issues.”
She also said that the US has been clear “publicly and privately” about its growing concerns about China’s aggressions toward Taiwan.
Last week, Taiwan said it witnessed a record 28 Chinese military jets entering its airspace in what was the biggest intrusion yet by Beijing.