The United States and Taiwan have revealed the commencement of trade talks amid heightened tensions with China over the state of the self-ruled island.
Washington and Taipei disclosed on Thursday they agreed to move ahead with the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade, which tends to boost trade and promote common standards in areas such as anti-corruption policy and environmental regulations.
The US Trade Representative noted that the two sides had reached an agreement on a mandate for negotiations, with the first round of talks expected to take place within two to three months.
“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 revealed in a statement.
The announcement comes after US President Joe Biden decided to remove the democratic island from the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). The Asia-focused economic initiative is broadly seen as aimed at tackling China’s growing influence as a rising military power and the world’s second-largest economy. China is the largest trading partner of most of the region’s major economies, including Taiwan.
The trade talks are likely to draw an angry reaction from China, which reacted to US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent trip to Taiwan with unprecedented military exercises and trade prohibitions against the island.
Beijing considers Taiwan a province that must be “reunified” with the mainland, by force if need be, and has blamed the US of trying to overturn decades of diplomatic policy as touching the island’s status.
The Biden administration has stated that its agreement to the “One China” policy has not changed, but it opposes any attempt to change the status quo by force.
Under the Nixon-era policy, Washington does not see Taiwan as an independent country or China’s territory, and only acknowledges – without endorsing – Beijing’s claim to the island. The US is also mandated to help Taiwan protect itself under its Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.