Poking the Dragon? US & Taiwan Agree to Bolster Trade
China has repeatedly lashed out at Washington’s relations with the island, especially in the military field. Beijing insists that Taipei should eventually be reunited with the mainland.
The US and Taiwan have launched talks aimed at bolstering bilateral trade ties, in what is being seen as an apparent challenge to China.
On Wednesday, the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) explained that the two sides “launched the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade, which is intended to develop concrete ways to deepen the economic and trade relationship, advance mutual trade priorities based on shared values, and promote innovation and inclusive economic growth for our workers and businesses”.
According to the USTR, the initiative was launched during a virtual meeting between Washington’s Deputy Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi and Taiwan Minister John Deng.
US President Joe Biden remains under pressure to deepen Washington-Taipei ties, with a bipartisan group of 52 senators urging him to include Taiwan in the recently-unveiled Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), which includes about 40 percent of the global economy.
© AP Photo / Taiwan Presidential OfficeIn this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., center left, meets with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, center right, at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, May 31, 2022
In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., center left, meets with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, center right, at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, May 31, 2022
© AP Photo / Taiwan Presidential Office
In a letter to Biden earlier this week, the senators argued that excluding the island would “allow the Chinese government to claim that the international community does not in fact support meaningful engagement with Taiwan”.
An unnamed senior US official was quoted by AFP as saying that there is still time to add Taiwan to the alliance.
“We didn't include Taiwan in the initial launch. However, going forward, we intend to take a flexible and adaptable approach to IPEF participation”, the official reportedly emphasised.
In a separate development on Wednesday, Shi Yi, a spokesman for the Chinese Army's Eastern Theatre Command, said that the country’s armed forces had conducted a joint patrol in Taiwan's airspace and waters involving different service branches. Shi dubbed it as a necessary measure amid collusion between Washington and Taipei.
“The Eastern Theatre Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has recently organised a joint combat-readiness security patrol involving multiple services and arms in the waters and airspace around the Taiwan Island. These actions are [a] necessary response to the collusion activities between the US and the 'Taiwan independence' forces”, Shi underscored.
The spokesman also called Washington out for taking unilateral steps concerning Taiwan and accused the White House of hypocrisy and secretly. These moves, he claimed, could put Taiwan in a dangerous situation and backfire on Washington.
The patrol was carried out during US Senator Tammy Duckworth’s three-day visit to Taiwan. Duckworth arrived on the island on Monday as part of her tour of the Indo-Pacific region. Meeting Duckworth on Tuesday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen expressed hope that Taipei and Washington will solidify their cooperation in the sphere of security.
Taiwan alienated Beijing after becoming a stronghold of the Kuomintang Nationalist Party that suffered defeat to the Communist Party in 1949 after the civil war. The Chinese mainland and the island resumed business and informal contacts in the late 1980s. Beijing opposes any official foreign contact with Taiwan and considers Chinese sovereignty over the island indisputable.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has repeatedly said that the One China principle is the political foundation of China-US relations, and that Washington’s violations of this policy have been jeopardising cooperation between the two countries, as well as threatening peace and stability in the region.
Although the US does not enjoy formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, Washington maintains a representative office in Taipei, remaining the island's biggest supplier of military hardware. Recently during his visit to Japan, Biden said that the US was ready to support the island militarily if China invaded it. The White House quickly scrambled to clarify that the POTUS meant supplying weapons and military equipment to the island.