The United States and Taiwan have concluded negotiations on a trade agreement to deepen economic ties, amid growing tensions between Washington and Beijing.
“This accomplishment represents an important step forward in strengthening the US-Taiwan economic relationship,” US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai said in a statement on Thursday.
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The US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade looks to boost trade by streamlining customs checks, improving regulatory procedures, and establishing anticorruption measures between the United States and the self-governing island of Taiwan, which China has long claimed as part of its territory.
While the United States and Taiwan do not have official diplomatic relations, they do maintain unofficial ties through the de facto US embassy in the country, the American Institute in Taiwan.
Beijing has in recent years stepped up its threats and rhetoric against Taiwan, increasing military drills in the seas around the island and working to cut off its official ties with countries around the world.
The issue prompts rare bipartisan agreement in the United States, with politicians including Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his Democratic predecessor Nancy Pelosi both meeting publicly with Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen over the last 12 months, drawing sharp criticism from China.
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The first agreement under the initiative will allow American businesses “to bring more products to Taiwan and Taiwanese customers, while creating more transparent and streamlined regulatory procedures that can facilitate investment and economic opportunities in both markets, particularly for small- and medium-sized enterprises,” the statement said.
The agreement, which still needs to be signed by the two sides, will “deepen the trading partnership and enhance US-Taiwan trade flows in order to promote innovation and inclusive economic growth for workers and businesses,” USTR said.
“We look forward to continuing these negotiations and finalizing a robust and high-standard trade agreement that tackles pressing 21st century economic challenges,” Tai said.
A spokeswoman for Tsai’s office said in a statement that “the president affirms and looks forward to further deepening of Taiwan-US trade relations.”
The final agreement “will also benefit and serve as a framework for trade agreements with other countries and strengthen our integration with the international community,” the statement said.
The Chinese embassy in Washington announced Thursday that China’s Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao will meet with US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Tai next week, in a rare trip to Washington by a top Beijing official.