The US is sending a delegation to Taiwan next week for trade talks with Taipei, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said on Wednesday, in a move sure to anger Beijing.
The US and Taiwan agreed to hold formal trade talks last year, and the first round was held in New York in November. Since Washington and Taiwan don’t have official relations, the negotiations are being held under the auspice of their respective de facto embassies, the American Institute in Taiwan, and the Taipei Economic Cultural Representative Office in the US.
But the US delegation is being led by Terry McCartin, the assistant US trade representative for China affairs, meaning the effort is being carried out by President Biden’s Executive Office. The USTR said the meetings in Taiwan would be attended by officials from several other government agencies.
According to The South China Post, Yang Jen-ni, Taiwan’s deputy trade representative, will lead the Taiwanese delegation, which will include dozens of officials from other departments.
China is against contact between high-level US and Taiwanese government officials as it views such cooperation as the US moving away from the one-China policy. Beijing is especially opposed to high-level US officials visiting Taiwan and typically reacts by launching military drills around the island.
The trade talks are an effort by the US to reduce economic dependence on China, and the overall increase in US contacts with Taiwan is part of the Biden administration’s strategy to counter China’s influence in the region. The USTR has dubbed the trade talks the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade and said they are intended to “develop concrete ways to deepen the economic and trade relationship.”
The USTR said the talks will focus on multiple areas, including “reaching agreements on trade facilitation, good regulatory practices, strong anti-corruption standards, enhancing trade between our small and medium enterprises, deepening agriculture trade, removing discriminatory barriers to trade, digital trade, robust labor and environmental standards, as well as ways to address distortive practices of state-owned enterprises and non-market policies and practices.”
Another major factor in the talks is the fact that Taiwan is the world’s largest producer of advanced semiconductors, and the Biden administration is trying to entice Taiwanese companies to open more facilities inside the US. The US has targeted China’s chip industry with major sanctions in recent months, which marks a major shift in US trade policy toward the country.