US, Taiwan to Hold Trade Talks in Taipei in Defiance of China

(Bloomberg) -- Officials from the US and Taiwan plan to hold trade talks in Taipei this month, highlighting the expansion of ties between the two sides in the face of increasingly fraught relations with China.

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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 Jan. 14, according to a statement late Wednesday from the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy in Taiwan.

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 in a statement.

Read: US, Taiwan Plan In-Person Trade Talks as China Tensions Simmer

Washington and Taipei have been forging closer ties as Chinese leader Xi Jinping ramps up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on the democratically ruled island. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen rejects the “one country, two systems” governance model Beijing proposes for the island it has pledged to someday control. Tsai argues Taiwan is a de facto independent nation deserving greater recognition globally.

Last year, China ramped up incursions of warplanes into areas around Taiwan, 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 Nancy Pelosi, who became the first sitting House speaker to visit Taipei in 25 years.

Last month, Taiwan announced plans to extend its compulsory military service to one year from four months, signaling to Beijing it is serious about defending itself.

See: China Warplane Flights Near Taiwan Surged in 2022 Amid Tensions

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

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

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

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