The governments of the United States and Taiwan are set to begin formal negotiations in the fall for a bilateral trade and investment agreement, the US Trade Representative (USTR) announced Wednesday, amid a serious escalation of tensions with China.
The talks are part of an initiative that was only announced in June and already led to a first meeting in the same month.
In addition to increasing trade and investment, the talks will also address responses to “anti-market policies and practices,” said USTR’s Kathryn Tai, a phrase that leaves little doubt that it refers to China.
The official start of the Washington-Taipei talks is yet another indication of the US’s intention to further tighten its relationship with Taiwan, already an important trading partner.
In early August, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island, followed by a group of US lawmakers on Monday.
Chinese authorities took the prominent Democratic politician’s visit to the island as a provocation and responded by holding the largest Taiwan Strait military drills in history and imposing trade sanctions on the island.
China considers the island of about 23 million people, with its own autonomous government, a breakaway province destined to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary. Taiwan has remained autonomous since the end of the Chinese Civil War (1949).
Taipei and Washington have already been linked, since 1994, by a “framework” for trade and investment, which is however not an official international agreement.
The signing of a trade agreement will “enhance exchange and investment” and “foster innovation and inclusive economic growth for our workers and our companies,” said Sarah Bianchi, acting US trade representative.