US, Taiwan to discuss trade, investments, Blinken says

The Biden administration is pushing forward on trade talks with Taiwan, which are likely to draw backlash from Beijing and further roil fraught relations between the U.S. and China. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a hearing with lawmakers Monday that the U.S. is “engaged in conversations … or soon will be on some kind of framework agreement” about deepening trade ties with Taiwan.  

Blinken, who was responding to a question from Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.), directed further questions about details to the U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

A spokesman for Tai’s office told The Wall Street Journal that strengthening relations with Taiwan is important, though “we have no meetings to announce at this time.”

The secretary’s remarks about the prospect of deepening trade relations with Taiwan came as three senators visited the tiny island, drawing backlash from Beijing which considers it a breakaway territory and has threatened annexation through military force. 

Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) arrived on the island Sunday, meeting with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and announcing that the U.S. would be providing 750,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses.   

“We’re grateful for your strong support for our country, our health, & our role in ensuring regional stability,” Tsai said, who has gained political popularity for a tougher stance against Beijing, said in a statement on Twitter. “I look forward to working together to advance our shared values & enduring partnership.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin slammed the Taiwan visit by the senators in a press conference Monday, claiming it “gravely violates” U.S. and China agreement of the “One China” policy that calls for relations with Taipei to go through Beijing. 

Wang called for the U.S. to “discontinue all forms of official interactions with Taiwan” and said “it should avoid sending any wrong signal to ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists and causing further damage to China-U.S. relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

The U.S. maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan at various levels in a delicate balance of diplomacy, committed to the island’s self defense as part of the Taiwan Relations Act, but withholding official, senior-level ties in deference to China.  

But increasing tensions between Washington and Beijing — the Biden administration has identified China as the greatest challenge of the 21st century — have pushed previous presidential administrations and lawmakers to demand closer ties with Taipei. 

Tags Andy Barr Antony Blinken China Chris Coons Dan Sullivan Katherine Tai One-China policy Taiwan Taiwan independence movement Taiwan Relations Act Tammy Duckworth

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