Taiwan 'cautiously optimistic' on resuming U.S. trade talks, official says

·2-min read
A demonstrator holds flags of Taiwan and the United States in support of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during an stop-over after her visit to Latin America in Burlingame

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan is "cautiously optimistic" about resuming stalled high level trade talks with the United States this year, a senior official said on Thursday, after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signalled a possible resumption.

The Biden administration has moved to reaffirm its strong commitment to the Chinese-claimed, democratically-governed island in the face of pressure from Beijing, including military drills, to try and assert its sovereignty.

Taiwan has long angled for a free trade deal with the United States, but trade and investment talks between the two have been stalled since the Obama administration.

A senior official at Taiwan's Economy Ministry told Reuters they hope to resume the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement(TIFA) talks this year.

"We are cautiously optimistic," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity and without elaborating.

Speaking on Monday, Blinken said the government was engaged or will be soon in conversations with Taiwan about some kind of framework agreement.

TIFA talks stalled after former President Barack Obama left office in 2016 and his successor Donald Trump's trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, focused on trade talks with China, the world's second-largest economy.

Any such agreement with Taiwan is likely to irritate China.

While Taiwan is a member of the World Trade Organization, many countries are wary of signing trade deals with the tech-powerhouse fearing objections from China, though Taiwan does have free trade deals with Singapore and New Zealand.

Last year, Taiwan's government lifted a ban on the import of pork containing a leanness-enhancing additive, ractopamine, removing a major stumbling block to a deal with Washington.

However, Taiwan will hold a referendum in late August on whether to resume the ban on the import of pork containing ractopamine. The outcome could affect trade talks with Washington.

(Reporting by Jeanny Kao; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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