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Taiwan, U.S. pledge to continue cooperation on trade initiative

03/01/2024 03:37 PM
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Head of Taiwan's Office of Trade Negotiations John Deng and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai shake hands at the World Trade Organization's 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Taiwan's Office of Trade Negotiations
Head of Taiwan's Office of Trade Negotiations John Deng and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai shake hands at the World Trade Organization's 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Taiwan's Office of Trade Negotiations

Washington, Feb. 29 (CNA) Top trade negotiators from Taiwan and the United States affirmed on Thursday their commitment to collaborate on the 21st Century Trade Initiative, the offices of the two sides said during a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting.

John Deng (鄧振中), head of Taiwan's Office of Trade Negotiations, and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai also exchanged views on the framework at a meeting on the sidelines of the WTO's 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi, the offices said.

Deng and Tai pledged to continue working together on the initiative as Taiwan transitions to a new government, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in a press release.

Meanwhile, Deng's office said, the two sides discussed follow-up negotiations on the Taiwan-U.S. 21st Century Trade Initiative.

An initial agreement covering less contentious technical issues in the areas of customs administration and trade facilitation, good regulatory practices, and services domestic regulation was signed in June 2023.

The goal of the initial agreement was to create "more transparent and streamlined regulatory procedures that can facilitate investment and economic opportunities in both markets," the USTR said.

Deng and Tai, who most recently met at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in San Francisco in November 2023, agreed in their talks to expedite discussions on more sensitive areas -- labor, agriculture and the environment -- according to Deng's office.

The 21st Century Trade Initiative parallels the 14-country Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) being promoted by the U.S.

There had been hopes of signing an IPEF trade deal in San Francisco, but the talks were dashed in part because the U.S. pulled back on negotiations over the initiative's trade pillar, according to Politico.

The pullback came as Democrats fear being vulnerable in the November 2024 elections if they support a free trade deal.

Whether that same sentiment could affect the 21st Century Trade Initiative remains to be seen, though the bilateral initiative will not cover what is usually at the heart of trade deals -- cutting or eliminating tariffs.

Taiwan is hoping to use the initiative as a model for interacting with other economies by encouraging other like-minded nations to reference the agreement in signing legally binding trade agreements with Taiwan, Deng's office said.

On WTO issues, the two sides touched on problems that have surfaced as a result of non-market economies abusing subsidies designated for specific markets, the office said.

In addition to the Deng-Tai meeting, the Taiwanese delegation raised various issues at the Feb. 26-29 WTO conference, such as calling for the bloc to set up a more complete and well-rounded dispute settlement mechanism to curb the compounding of trade disputes between nations, it said.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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