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US, Taiwan hold first round of trade talks

WASHINGTON - US and Taiwanese officials held the first round of trade talks on Monday under an initiative announced earlier this month that drew strong criticism from Beijing.

Deputy US Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi and Taiwan's top trade negotiator John Deng held the inaugural meeting of the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade which aims to deepen ties between the two economies.

"This initiative will unlock market opportunities, promote innovation and create inclusive economic growth for our workers and businesses," Bianchi said in a statement.

Washington has said the scope of the talks is limited and in keeping with the "unofficial" relationship with Taipei.

But Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and tries to keep it isolated on the world stage, bristling at any attempt to treat the self-governing democracy as an independent nation.

"China always opposes any form of official exchanges between any country and the Taiwan region of China, including negotiating and signing any economic and trade agreements with sovereign connotations and an official nature," Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said early this month when the plan was announced.

The initiative came in the wake of an agreement President Joe Biden announced with 12 Asian economies, which excluded Taiwan.

Like that effort, the discussions with Taipei will not involve tariffs or market access -- items that would require congressional approval.

In the first meeting, the officials discussed the development of an "ambitious roadmap for negotiations... to reach agreements with high-standard commitments and economically meaningful outcomes," the statement said.

Taiwan is the 10th largest export market for the United States, as well as a vital source of semiconductors.

A global shortage of the chips is hitting industries that rely on them from cars to smartphones, and pushing inflation higher.

The officials met with legislators and business executives to discuss the opportunities, and talks with cover areas, including regulatory practices, agriculture, digital trade, labor, and environmental standards.

The next meeting is planned for "the near future," USTR said. 

China has tried to stop any international recognition for the island, opposing its participation in global fora.

But Biden is under pressure to deepen ties with Taiwan after a bipartisan group of 52 senators urged him to include the island in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) launched in late May, which includes about 40 percent of the global economy. -- Agence France-Presse

Tags: us, Taiwan, US-Taiwan