A group of lawmakers is pressuring President Trump’s top trade negotiator to strike a formal trade deal with Taiwan. On Thursday, a bipartisan group of 50 Senators addressed a letter to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
The letter called on Lighthizer to begin negotiating with Taipei to cut down US “reliance” on China, increase supply chains, and protect national security. The senators said a formal trade deal would “serve as a signal to other nations that Taiwan is a viable partner that is open for business.”
The push by the senators came just a day after the US and Taiwan announced a plan to partner on infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific and Latin America. The infrastructure project is a response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious undertaking by Beijing to link China with countries across the world.
The US actively discourages European countries from taking part in the Belt and Road Initiative and from doing business with Beijing, despite the US and China being each other’s top trading partners. China is also Taiwan’s largest trading partner.
Increasing ties with Taipei has been a major priority for the Trump administration. In 2018, President Trump signed into law the Taiwan Travel Act. The legislation paved the way for high-level visits from US officials that started this year.
In August, US Health Secretary Alex Azar traveled to Taiwan, making him the highest-level US official to visit the island since Washington broke formal relations with Taipei in 1979. Azar’s visit was followed by one from US Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach.