The first meeting of a newly launched Taiwan-US trade initiative would be held in Washington before the end of this month, with Taipei’s ultimate goal being the signing of a trade agreement with Washington, Taiwan’s top trade negotiator said.
The first in-person meeting of the “US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade” since its launch on June 1 would be held in the last week of this month, Minister Without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中) told the Central News Agency during an interview in London on Friday.
The trade pact Taiwan aims to sign with the US would not be a free-trade agreement that involves tariff negotiations, Deng said.
That is because the US Congress has not authorized its government to sign free-trade agreements with any country, he said.
Deng would not give a timetable for the signing of such an agreement with Washington, saying only that Taipei has demonstrated its clear commitment to reaching the deal.
The two sides would focus their negotiations on 11 areas, including trade facilitation, regulatory practices, standards, state-owned enterprises, nonmarket policies and practices, and countering corruption, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said in a news release.
Other areas to be touched on within the initiative are the support of small and medium-sized enterprises in trade, digital trade and worker-centric trade, while the two sides would also explore ways to promote agriculture and climate action, the USTR said.
The first in-person meeting would focus on exactly how both sides should engage in “meaningful” discussions on the 11 topics, Deng said.
Both sides would not engage in more in-depth, substantial talks until Taiwan and the US have completed related preparations, including talking with private businesses, he added.
The new trade initiative was launched after Taiwan was excluded from the US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), launched on May 23 by US President Joe Biden.
Comparing the new trade initiative to the IPEF, Deng said the former is more concrete than the latter, as Taiwan knows exactly what to expect in the negotiations.
However, he said that Taiwan is still hoping to join the IPEF.
Deng was visiting the UK from Thursday to Saturday to meet with British politicians and academics to learn from their experience in applying to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade pact.
The CPTPP, which grew out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the US left the pact in January 2017, is one of the world’s biggest trade blocs, representing a market of 500 million people and accounting for 13.5 percent of global trade.
Its 11 signatories are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Taiwan applied to join the CPTPP on Sept. 22 last year, less than a week after China also applied for membership to the trade group, suggesting Taipei might have been rushing in response to Beijing’s bid.
Asked to comment, Deng said both sides of the Taiwan Strait have now officially applied to join the CPTPP.
“We are hoping that each side can focus on its own application and play by the rules” before the CPTPP members decide objectively on each application based on their own evaluations, he said.
The UK was the first country to apply to join the CPTPP after the bloc was launched in 2018. London made official its application in January last year and began talks that June.
British Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan last month said that her country is hoping to conclude talks on joining the Pacific trade bloc by the end of this year.
Asked what Taiwan can learn from the UK, Deng said he was told that CPTPP members have been extremely meticulous during their review process in asking applicants to provide detailed responses and explanations.
“We have to be prepared for all kinds of possible questions raised by CPTPP member states to facilitate the accession,” he said.
Taiwan has to be well-prepared for this and there is no room to slow down, Deng added.
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