TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan and the United States will hold trade talks next week, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei said on Friday, resuming long-stalled discussions as Washington seeks to deepen its support for the Chinese-claimed island.
The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks, or TIFA, stalled after former U.S. President Barack Obama left office in 2016 and his successor Donald Trump’s trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, focused his attention on China, the world’s second-largest economy.
The TIFA Council meeting would be held virtually on Wednesday, opened by the top U.S. diplomat in Taiwan, Brent Christensen, and Taiwan’s top diplomat in Washington, Hsiao Bi-Khim, the U.S. diplomatic mission on the island, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), said.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and Taiwan’s Office of Trade Negotiations will serve as the “chief consultants” for the talks, it added.
“AIT looks forward to using the TIFA process to strengthen the strategic trade and investment partnership that exists between our two economies,” it said in a statement.
Taiwan had been cautiously optimistic about resuming the high level trade talks with Washington this year after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signalled a possible resumption this month.
The Biden administration has moved to reaffirm its strong commitment to the democratically governed island in the face of pressure from Beijing to try and assert its sovereignty.
Taiwan has long angled for a free trade deal with the United States, though any such agreement with Taiwan would likely irritate Beijing, which says the island is Chinese territory and does not have the right to state-to-state relations.
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.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)