US, Taiwan hold talks on strengthening economic ties


Two sides agree to establish an ‘institutionalised dialogue mechanism’, discuss wide range of issues including science, technology, trade and health.

The United States and Taiwan held talks on Friday on strengthening their economic relationship in the face of increasing pressure on the island from China, which the Taiwanese side hailed as a successful step forward.

The talks, held under the auspices of a new Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue, were both virtually and in-person. They were led on the US side by Under-secretary of State Keith Krach, who had previously angered China with a visit to Taipei in September.

Taiwan’s Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Chen Chern-chyi brought a delegation to Washington, DC for the discussions.

A statement from Taiwan’s representative office in Washington said the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to establish an “institutionalised dialogue mechanism”.

“Both sides also discussed a wide range of issues including science and technology, supply chain restructuring, 5G networks, investment review, infrastructure and energy, global health security and women’s economic empowerment,” it said.

The US Department of State said the two agreed to negotiate a science and technology agreement to “advance joint understanding and collaboration on a broad range of science and technology topics”.

Future talks will help strengthen their economic relationship and “our shared commitment to free markets, entrepreneurship, and freedom”, it added.

The dialogue, which Taiwan hopes may lead eventually to a free-trade agreement, is part of increased US engagement with Taipei under the outgoing administration of US President Donald Trump, which has angered Beijing.

China claims democratically run Taiwan as its own territory and reacted with fury when the US Health Secretary Alex Azar visited Taipei in August, followed by Krach in September, sending fighter jets near the island each time.

Azar was the most senior US official to visit Taiwan since Washington switched official diplomatic recognition to the mainland in 1979 and Krach was the most senior State Department official to visit in those four decades.

Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-Chang also said on Friday that a third official, the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, had been invited to visit for “bilateral discussions on international cooperation on environmental protection issues”.

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The New York Times reported that Wheeler’s three-day trip was scheduled for the week of December 5.

In Beijing, a foreign ministry spokesman said China opposed any official exchanges between the United States and Taiwan, and urged Washington to fully recognise the sensitivity of the Taiwan issue.

“China will make a legitimate and necessary response in accordance with how the situation develops,” Zhao Lijian told a daily news briefing, without elaborating.

While Trump, a Republican, is a popular figure in Taiwan, the government has moved to allay concerns the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, will not be as supportive.

Taiwanese officials have pointed out that support for Taiwan is bipartisan in the US, and last week, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador in Washington spoke by telephone with Antony Blinken, a longtime confidant of Biden’s.



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