The United States and Taiwan have agreed to move forward with trade negotiations under a new initiative to ensure “economically meaningful outcomes” for the two nations as both face increased pressure from China.
Deputy US Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi announced the negotiations on Wednesday, saying they will take place “under the auspices of [American Institute in Taiwan] and [the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States].”
They are seeking to “deepen” the trade and investment relationship between the US and Taiwan as well as “advance mutual trade priorities based on shared values, and promote innovation and inclusive economic growth for our workers and businesses,” Bianchi said.
“We plan to pursue an ambitious schedule for achieving high-standard commitments and meaningful outcomes covering the eleven trade areas in the negotiating mandate that will help build a fairer, more prosperous and resilient 21st century economy,” the trade representative added.
The negotiations come two months after officials in Washington, DC, and Taipei revealed the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade, which was launched to help start discussions.
While the US has indicated the first round of negotiations will begin “early this fall,” John Deng, Taiwan’s top trade negotiator, told reporters that he is hoping talks could start next month, according to Reuters.
He indicated that the discussions could potentially lead to a free trade deal with the US.
Specifically, the areas that will be addressed in the upcoming negotiations will include trade facilitation, good regulatory practices, anti-corruption standards, supporting small and medium enterprises, agricultural trade, digital trade, labor rights protections, as well as promoting environmentally friendly businesses and jobs.
The discussions come as China has increased its military presence around Taiwan in retaliation for multiple visits to the island nation by several US lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Beijing — which has long asserted sovereignty over Taiwan — has been accusing Washington of violating US-China policy over the island nation as well as supporting its independence.
On Monday, the Chinese government announced an additional round of military drills around Taiwan after five lawmakers visited the nation one day before.
The Defense Ministry described the military exercises as a “resolute response and solemn deterrent against collusion and provocation between the US and Taiwan.”
China first launched military drills earlier this month in response to Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, which made her the highest-ranking US official to visit the island in 25 years.
Amid the increased threats, top Washington officials have repeatedly insisted US policy toward Taiwan remains unchanged.
For years, the US has adopted a policy of “strategic ambiguity” toward the nation, acknowledging China’s claim of power while not supporting it, as well as not supporting Taiwan’s independence.
“While our policy has not changed, what has changed is Beijing’s growing coercion,” Daniel Kritenbrink, US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said Thursday.
“These actions are part of an intensified pressure campaign … to intimidate and coerce Taiwan and undermine its resilience,” he told reporters.
Escalations may indeed continue in the coming weeks, as Beijing has come out against the US-Taiwan trade relations.
“China will take resolute measures to uphold its national sovereignty and territorial integrity. We advise the United States stop making misjudgements,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters, according to Reuters.