U.S. trade officials have traveled to Taiwan to kick off four days of negotiations over a proposed trade deal that has drawn opposition from the People’s Republic of China.
The meeting between U.S. and Taiwanese negotiators in Taipei – which began Saturday and is scheduled to run through Tuesday – marks the first formal negotiations over the text of a trade agreement after an initial round of meetings in November. The talks will focus on proposed deals covering anti-corruption standards, trade by small- and medium-sized businesses, regulatory practices, and trade facilitation.
As the U.S. and Taiwan reach agreements in some of these areas, the two sides may announce standalone deals on those subjects for what Taiwanese officials called an “early harvest” as momentum builds toward a broader trade agreement. Two areas that have proven more challenging between the U.S. and Taiwan – agriculture and digital trade – are likely to take longer to negotiate.
The potential trade deal between Taiwan and the U.S. has rankled Chinese officials, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy accused Americans of “wrongdoing” by even negotiating the deal, the Wall Street Journal reported in November.
“China is always against any country negotiating economic and trade agreements of sovereign implication or official nature with China’s Taiwan region,” the spokesman said.
The PRC regards Taiwan as a rogue, breakaway province, although it has never ruled the democratic, self-governing island nation since the Chinese Communist Party seized control of the mainland in 1949 following a 22-year civil war. Chinese leader Xi Jinping and other senior CCP officials have repeatedly declined to rule out the use of force to bring about Taiwan’s “reunification” with the PRC.
In a statement announcing the new round of negotiations, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office noted that the negotiations with Taiwan are being conducted according to longstanding policies including the Taiwan Relations Act, which governs America’s unofficial diplomatic relationship with Taiwan, and the one China policy that recognizes the dispute between the PRC and Taiwan.
The American delegation to Taiwan for this round of trade talks is led by Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for China Affairs Terry McCartin, who is responsible for developing U.S. trade policy toward China, Taiwan, Mongolia, Hong Kong, and Macau. Officials from other U.S. agencies are also on the trip.
The trade talks are being held under the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade, which encompasses 11 trade areas including areas that are a focus for this negotiating round. Other matters covered by the initiative include labor and environmental standards and addressing trade distortions caused by state-owned enterprises.
A potential trade agreement between the U.S. and Taiwan would serve as a bilateral companion to the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity the Biden administration announced over the summer with a dozen countries in the region.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.