US, Taiwan to resume trade talks in Taipei starting on Monday

FILE PHOTO: Taiwanese flags are seen at the Ministry of National Defence of Taiwan in Taipei

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. and Taiwan will hold another round of negotiations toward their "21st Century" trade agreement starting on Monday in Taipei, the U.S. Trade Representative's office said on Friday.

The talks, led by USTR and the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, are expected to discuss more complicated areas in their negotiating mandate that were not already agreed on previous negotiating rounds, including agriculture, labor, digital trade, environment, and state-owned enterprises.

The trade talks are not expected to alter goods tariffs, but proponents say a pact would strengthen economic bonds between the U.S. and Taiwan, open the island to more American exports, and increase Taiwan's ability to resist economic coercion from China.

Beijing has denounced the trade talks as it does with all forms of high level engagement between the United States and Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory. Taiwan strongly rejects China's sovereignty claims, which Beijing has been trying to push on Taipei through stepped-up military activities around the island.

USTR said that the negotiations "are being conducted consistent with the United States' one-China policy" and the Taiwan Relations Act, which obligates Washington to help provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.

The trade talks also take place amid heightened tensions across the Taiwan Strait ahead of the May 20 inauguration of Taiwan's president-elect, Lai Ching-te, who Beijing views as a dangerous separatist.

In June 2023, the U.S. and Taiwan signed an agreement on the first part of the "U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade," covering customs and border procedures, regulatory practices anti-corruption and small businesses. USTR said the customs agreement, which allows for electronic filing of Taiwan's customs forms and duty payments, is aimed at reducing red tape for U.S. exports to Taiwan.

The U.S. negotiating team will be led by Terry McCartin, the assistant U.S. trade representative for China, Mongolia and Taiwan affairs, and will include representatives from other U.S. government agencies, USTR said.

(Reporting by David Lawder; editing by Diane Craft)