The US Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed legislation affirming its support for the initial trade agreement reached under the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade.
The bill, which cleared the US House of Representatives on June 21, was passed in the Senate by a voice vote, and is to be sent to US President Joe Biden to be signed into law within 10 days.
Taiwan and the US signed a first agreement under their “21st century” trade initiative on June 1, which covered customs and border procedures, regulatory practices and small business in a bid to make trade and investment between the two sides easier.
Following the signing, the two sides said they planned to begin negotiations on other, more complicated issues, such as agriculture, digital trade, labor, environmental and nonmarket policies and practices, and state-owned enterprises and standards.
In addition to granting approval for the initial agreement, the bill would ensure that Taiwan-US trade negotiations are subject to strict requirements on public transparency and congressional consultation, the US Senate Committee on Finance said in statement.
In Taipei, Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) yesterday called on the Legislative Yuan to approve the first-stage agreement during its extra legislative session, which started on Monday and runs through July 31.
Speaking to reporters, Chen dismissed criticism from opposition lawmakers that because the initial agreement does not include tariff relief, it would provide few tangible benefits to Taiwanese companies.
The deal’s trade facilitation measures — which standardize and streamline the import and export process — would ensure substantial benefits and savings, while providing a legal foundation for further expanding bilateral trade ties, he said.
Minister of Finance Chuang Tsui-yun (莊翠雲) told lawmakers that her ministry estimated that Taiwan’s customs declaration and courier companies would be able to save NT$100 million (US$3.22 million) in costs a year thanks to the deal’s trade facilitation measures.
The Presidential Office yesterday thanked the US Senate for passing the trade bill, saying the move indicated concrete action in support of trade relations between the two sides.
Presidential Office spokeswoman Lin Yu-chan (林聿禪) told reporters in Taipei that the passage of the bill by the US Senate and House was smooth and fast, demonstrating bipartisan support in the US for bolstering economic and trade relations with Taiwan.
The trade initiative is an important milestone in deepening US-Taiwan trade relations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
The foreign ministry said it would continue to work closely with the Executive Yuan’s Office of Trade Negotiations, US administrative departments and the US Congress to improve economic and trade relations between Taiwan and the US.
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