The new initiative – the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade – officially marks the beginning of trade talks between Taiwan and the United States. It is a pioneer in signing a free trade agreement, Taiwan’s trade representative John Deng told a news conference on Wednesday.
The initiative covers 11 key areas, including “trade facilitation, regulatory practice, agriculture, anti-corruption, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, digital trade, labor rights, environment, standards, state-owned enterprises and non-market practices and policies, Deng says.
A key goal is to “create an ambitious roadmap for negotiations to reach agreements with high-quality commitments and economically meaningful results,” the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said in a statement.
Deng hailed the initiative as a “historic breakthrough” for Taiwan as it opened the door to further trade and economic cooperation with the United States. He added that it included key elements of a regional trade agreement, which could lead to the immediate signing of a “highly anticipated” bilateral trade agreement between Taiwan and the United States.
The launch of the initiative will run parallel to Taiwan’s continued efforts to join the Indo-Pacific economic framework for prosperity, Deng added.
Deng will travel to Washington, D.C. at the end of June to attend the first meeting under the initiative.
In an interview with reporters, an administrative official said through the initiative, “We want to explore ways to deepen our bilateral economic and trade relations and deliver specific results for our people.”
“In the coming days and weeks, we will move forward. We will move quickly to create a roadmap for possible discussions. There will be a private meeting in Washington DC next month,” the official said. “The main areas of our discussion include trade facilitation, regulatory practices, agriculture, anti-corruption, supporting our small and medium-sized enterprises, digital trade outcomes, labor rights, environment, standards, state-owned enterprises and non-market practices and policies.”
The discussion comes after Biden unveiled his long-awaited Asian economic plan in a speech in Tokyo – the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, or IPEF – which includes 13 partner countries. This did not include Taiwan, which was an open question because Biden was preparing a plan to create an economic zone to counter China’s growing influence in the region. On Tuesday, officials finally appeared open to including Taiwan in the IPEF – even when bilaterally creating the same structure.
“We are committed to finding ways to deepen trade investment with Taiwan, which is why we created this initiative,” said a senior official. “We believe that this initiative will allow for greater focus on our partnership with Taiwan and greater sewing of dialogue and unique features of our trade relations.”
The official said that although Taiwan was not included in the “initial introduction” of the IPEF, “in the future we would like to adopt a flexible and adaptive approach to IPEF participation.”
“There is still … time in the process,” the official added.
The deal would not require congressional approval, officials said, as it did not include “no market access requirements.” Nevertheless, one official “wanted to underscore that we would be involved … significantly with Congress and other stakeholders.”
“Of course, there is a lot more interest in Taiwan relations and what we are doing here,” the official added. “Of course there is a lot more dialogue going on with Congress on this issue and we will move forward with them.”
This story and its title have been updated with additional reporting.
Kate Sullivan of CNN contributed to this report.