US, Taiwan to hold trade talks in Taipei in defiance of China

The US will send a delegation of officials from other government agencies for four days of meetings starting Jan 14. PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI - Officials from the United States and Taiwan plan to hold trade talks in Taipei in January, highlighting the expansion of ties between the two sides in the face of increasingly fraught relations with China.

The US will send a delegation led by Assistant US Trade Representative Terry McCartin and officials from other government agencies for four days of meetings starting from Jan 14, according to a statement from the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy in Taiwan, late on Wednesday.

Deputy Trade Representative Yang Jen-ni will lead the Taiwanese side in the talks with input from various government agencies, the Cabinet in Taipei said.

The talks are part of the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade launched in June to reach agreement in areas including trade facilitation and regulatory practices. Officials held “conceptual discussions” in New York in November.

The initiative was unveiled weeks after US President Joe Biden launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework in May, a deal designed to counter China’s influence in the region that did not feature Taiwan despite more than 50 senators urging Mr Biden to include the island.

China has previously said it “firmly” opposes the trade talks. It has criticised the US for holding the discussions with Taiwan, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin saying in August that his nation “is always against any country negotiating economic and trade agreements of sovereign implication or official nature with China’s Taiwan region”.

Washington and Taipei have been forging closer ties as Chinese President Xi Jinping ramps up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on the island.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunified, by force if necessary. Taiwan, however, rejects China’s sovereignty claims.

China ramped up incursions of warplanes into areas around Taiwan in 2022, sending some 1,700 flights, nearly double the number in 2021. It also held unprecedented military drills around the island in August in response to a visit by Mrs Nancy Pelosi, who became the first sitting House Speaker to visit Taipei in 25 years.

In December, Taiwan announced plans to extend its compulsory military service to one year from four months, signalling to Beijing that it is serious about defending itself. BLOOMBERG

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