Taiwan, U.S. hold first trade talks in 5 years amid Chinese objection

Jul 01 , 2021. 11 hours ago – 23:20 KYODO NEWS

Combined photo shows U.S. flag (UIG/Getty) and Taiwan flag. (Kyodo)

TAIPEI – Taiwan and the United States reopened trade talks Wednesday, the first since 2016 during the U.S. administration of Barack Obama, despite objections from China.

After the five-year hiatus, Taiwan and the United States held the 11th Trade and Investment Framework Agreement Council meeting via videoconference with discussions led by Terry McCartin, assistant U.S. trade representative, and Yang Jen-ni, deputy trade representative of Taiwan’s Office of Trade Negotiations.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in a statement that both sides at the council meeting welcomed the resumption of high-level trade engagement and discussed a range of specific trade and investment issues.

It pointed out that the U.S. and Taiwan authorities committed to intensifying engagement aimed at addressing outstanding trade concerns such as market access barriers facing U.S. beef and pork producers.

Taipei and Washington signed the framework agreement in 1994 and established council meetings as the key mechanism for trade and investment dialogue between authorities of the two sides.

However, trade talks under the framework have hit roadblocks since 2007 due to gaps on various issues, such as Taiwan’s restriction on imports of U.S. meat containing traces of ractopamine, a leanness-enhancing additive approved for use in livestock in the United States.

Taiwan lifted the ban on Jan. 1 this year, clearing a major hurdle in the trade talks, which Taiwan hopes will lead to negotiations on an economic partnership agreement.

Brent Christensen, the outgoing director of the American Institute in Taiwan, said in his opening remarks of the virtual meeting that President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration is committed to advancing bilateral economic relations, including adopting science-based international standards, “even when it requires difficult political decisions.”

“As my team and I worked to strengthen and deepen the U.S.-Taiwan economic relationship, we viewed the resumption of TIFA talks as an essential element of our revitalized engagement on trade,” Christensen said.

In support of their commitment to intensified engagement, the two sides agreed to convene meetings of several TIFA working groups and other working-level meetings as necessary.

Since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979, the United States has maintained an unofficial but robust cultural, commercial and relationship with the island.

Taiwan is the United States’ ninth-largest goods trading partner, and the United States is Taiwan’s second-largest trading partner. Goods and services trade between Taiwan and the United States totaled $106 billion last year.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan a renegade province awaiting reunification by force if necessary, has voiced opposition to the talks.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a recent briefing in Beijing that “China has all along opposed any U.S. attempt to elevate relations in essence or engage in official interactions with Taiwan in any form,” urging the U.S. government to refrain from “sending a wrong signal to separatist elements advocating Taiwan independence.”