Washington and Taipei will soon kick off formal negotiations on the “U.S. Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade” initiative announced on June 1, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) said on Wednesday.
Negotiations will take place under the auspices of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States and the American Institute in Taiwan, an Aug. 17 press release said. The initiative will involve negotiations on a wide range of subjects like good regulatory practices, deepening agricultural trade, boosting trade between the two nations’ small and medium enterprises, trade facilitation, digital trade, labor standards, and addressing distortive practices of state-owned enterprises.
Throughout the negotiations, Washington will consult with Congress as well as “key stakeholders” in business, labor, and environmental groups, the release states.
“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,” Deputy United States Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi said in the release.
Speaking to reporters in Taipei, top Taiwanese trade negotiator John Deng said that negotiations could start next month and that this might one day result in a free trade agreement that the island nation has been pursuing for so long, according to Reuters. The USTR is expecting the first round of negotiations to kick off early this fall.
The negotiations come as the Biden administration excluded Taiwan from its Indo–Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), an economic partnership between the United States and 13 Asian nations.
According to Deng, one of the topics that will be discussed during the negotiations is China’s economic coercion. The communist regime has been restricting trade with nations that it has disputes with, a move that he said does great harm to the global economic and trade order.
In June, Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said that Beijing opposes any official contact between Taiwan and other nations, including signing economic and trade agreements that have an “official nature.”
“The United States should prudently handle trade and economic ties with Taiwan to avoid sending a wrong message to Taiwan separatists,” Gao said, according to Reuters.
Following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this month, China launched its biggest ever military exercise around the island.
In its 2022 annual White Paper, the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan asked Washington to “accelerate” economic integration with Taipei through a bilateral trade agreement.
The organization argued that such a deal will “bolster both the U.S.’ and Taiwan’s economic and thus overall security vis-à-vis an assertive China.”
Trade between Taiwan and the United States was worth $106 billion in 2020.