White House Ignores China's Threats Over Taiwan Trade Talks

The Biden administration has expressed determination to resume trade talks between the U.S. and Taiwan, despite recent warnings out of Beijing calling for an end to all forms of engagement with the Chinese-claimed island.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated Washington's "rock-solid" support for Taipei on Monday after she was asked about China's opposition to the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), under which U.S.-Taiwan trade dialog is set to resume on the eve of the Chinese Communist Party's 100-year anniversary.

"Taiwan is a leading democracy and major economy and a security partner," Psaki said. "And we will continue to strengthen our relationship across all areas—all the areas we cooperate, including on economic issues."

The administration of President Joe Biden is "committed to the importance of the U.S.-Taiwan trade and investment relationships," the White House spokesperson added. Wednesday's TIFA talks—the first for five years—are expected to touch on clean supply chains, as well as Taiwan's continued supply of semiconductors to key American industries.

On China's objection to any form of exchange between Washington and Taipei, Psaki said the Biden administration had made clear both in public statements and private meetings with Chinese officials its "growing concerns about China's aggressions" toward Taiwan.

The People's Republic of China has taken "increasingly coercive action to undercut democracy in Taiwan," she added. "We will continue to express our strong concerns to Beijing in that regard and, also, our concerns about the PRC's attempts to intimidate others in the region."

Beijing is expected to lodge fresh protests as the talks get underway. On June 11, its Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin reiterated China's "firm opposition to all forms of official interactions between the U.S. and Taiwan."

China rejects "any agreement with implications of sovereignty and of an official nature," Wang added.

The U.S. has not maintained an official relationship with Taiwan— formally known as the Republic of China—for over 40 years since switching diplomatic ties to Beijing in 1979. However, the U.S. has been, and remains, Taiwan's most important international backer.

Washington's relations with Taipei and Beijing are guided by the Taiwan Relations Act and the U.S. "one China" policy, respectively. The former allows for the continued provision of defensive articles to Taipei, while the latter acknowledges China's claim over Taiwan while not strictly taking a position on the question of its sovereignty.

The TIFA platform was established in 1995 but has not been used to engage in high-level trade talks since 2016, before the administration of former President Donald Trump.

The virtual meeting on June 30 will be hosted by Brent Christensen, the director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei. Hsiao Bi-khim, his counterpart who heads the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington, will also take part.

In a Facebook post written in Mandarin on Monday, Hsiao hailed the resumption of the stalled TIFA talks, saying the dialog would lay the foundation for future bilateral trade cooperation.

Hsiao noted key topics of discussion would include climate change, digital economy, supply chain security, labor rights and intellectual property rights.

"International trade negotiations are never easy," she said, while expressing her hope to eventually see a U.S.-Taiwan bilateral trade agreement.

Last August, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen announced plans to relax restrictions on U.S. pork and beef imports beginning January 1 this year. The revised policy—controversial among the Taiwanese public—allows for the importation of American pork products containing acceptable levels of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine.

Opposition to ractopamine has long been a stumbling block in elevating U.S.-Taiwan trade relations. Tsai's decision was praised by now Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the time.

The renewal of TIFA talks was agreed upon on June 10, when U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai today met virtually with Taiwan Minister-Without-Portfolio John Deng.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai At Hearing
Trade Representative Katherine C. Tai. by /) Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images