Tuesday, 5 July, 2022

China hits out at US-Taiwan trade talks

BEIJING: China on Thursday said it "firmly opposes" trade talks between the United States and Taiwan after Taipei and Washington announced the launch of a new initiative to deepen economic ties. 

Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and tries to keep it isolated on the world stage, bristling at any attempt to treat the self-governing democracy as an independent nation.

"China always opposes any form of official exchanges between any country and the Taiwan region of China, including negotiating and signing any economic and trade agreements with sovereign connotations and an official nature," commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said, reports AFP.

Washington is vying to bolster its influence in the region to counter Beijing and US President Joe Biden is coming under bipartisan pressure from US lawmakers to deepen ties with Taiwan.

The talks announced on Wednesday -- the "US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade" -- come on the heels of a trade agreement announced last week between the United States and 12 Asian economies, which excluded Taiwan.

Like the earlier trade agreement, the discussions with Taiwan will not involve tariffs or market access -- items that would require congressional approval, US officials said.

In a statement, the US Trade Representative said that "both sides will work at pace... to develop an ambitious roadmap for negotiations for reaching agreements with high-standard commitments and economically meaningful outcomes."

Taiwan's lead trade negotiator John Deng said the talks would "open up more room for economic cooperation."

"We can say this is a historic breakthrough," he added, speaking at a press conference in Taipei.

Deputy USTR Sarah Bianchi and Deng met on Wednesday to launch the new initiative.

The trade agency said it was "intended to develop concrete ways to deepen the economic and trade relationship, advance mutual trade priorities based on shared values, and promote innovation and inclusive economic growth for our workers and businesses."

The first meeting under the initiative will be held in Washington later in June, and will cover customs procedures and regulations, including rules governing agriculture trade, worker rights and the fight against "harmful non-market policies".

Another administration official said the goal is to produce a "high framework, binding agreement," but gave no timeframe for reaching a deal.

Taiwan is the 10th largest export market for the United States, as well as a vital source of semiconductors, including some of the most advanced and smallest microchips in production.

A global shortage of semiconductors is hitting industries that rely on them from cars to smartphones, and pushing inflation higher.

A spokesman for the Taiwanese government on Wednesday emphasised the "crucial role" the island plays in the semiconductor supply line.