WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday signaled a possible resumption of trade and investment talks with Taiwan stalled since the Obama administration, but gave no indication of any willingness to pursue a full-scale trade pact Taipei has been seeking.
At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the U.S. State Department’s annual budget request, Blinken was asked about the Biden administration’s position on a bilateral trade agreement with Taiwan.
“I’d have to refer you to Katherine Tai, the U.S. Trade Representative, but I know we are engaged in conversations with Taiwan, or soon will be, on some kind of framework agreement, and those conversations should be starting.”
Any such agreement is likely to irritate China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bonnie Glaser, a Taiwan expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said Blinken’s comment was a signal that Washington was likely to move forward with a resumption of Trade Investment Framework Talks (TIFA) with Taiwan that have not been held since the Obama administration.
She said the administration had probably not made a decision on whether to take the much larger step of pursuing a bilateral trade agreement with Taiwan, however.
“Senior Biden administration officials have been encouraging USTR Tai to hold a round of the TIFA talks, and Taipei is eager to do this as soon as possible,” Glaser said.
She said Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was keen ahead of an August referendum that could reverse her January decision to lift remaining restrictions on imports of U.S. pork and beef to show some progress on trade talks with the United States.
Douglas Paal, a former U.S. unofficial representative in Taiwan, said Blinken appeared to making a standard reference to the long unfinished TIFA.
“Multiple administrations have pursued this, sometimes as a way station to a form of bilateral trade agreement, more often as an end point in itself,” he said.
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by : Reuters