Taiwan and the United States will be signing an agreement under a trade initiative “in the coming weeks” that would pave the way for a full-scale bilateral trade agreement (BIA) should Washington wish to explore that option, said a senior Taiwan government official familiar with trade talks on Thursday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters in Taipei that both sides would be signing a deal under the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade “very soon.”
The sealed deal will be a “de facto BIA” without touching on the issues of tariffs and free trade. It will be the first trade-related pact that US President Joe Biden has signed with a foreign country since assuming office in January 2021, the source added.
The source said that with the pact, which he called a mini-BIA and a “living agreement,” Taiwan and US could add new ideas and cover new areas in terms of bilateral trade and businesses as long as both sides agree, and could expand into a full-scale BIA or Free Trade Agreement (FTA) should the US side decide on that.
The source made the remarks when asked to comment on the latest developments in the negotiations for the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade.
The initiative was unveiled by both governments in June 2022 after Taiwan was excluded from the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a US-led multilateral partnership involving 12 other countries, which has been touted as a counterweight to a China-initiated free trade deal in the region.
Taipei and Washington have so far concluded two rounds of negotiations under the initiative the first from November 8-9 in New York, and the second in Taipei from January 14-17.
The 11 trade areas to be addressed are trade facilitation, good regulatory practices, anti-corruption, SMEs, agriculture, standards, digital trade, labour, environment, state-owned enterprises, and non-market policies and practices.
After the January meeting, Taiwan’s Office of Trade Negotiations said that it expected the two sides to sign an early harvest agreement on trade facilitation, anti-corruption, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), good regulatory practices and the domestic regulation of services within a few weeks.
Prior to the two rounds of negotiations, Taiwan had been hoping for more than 20 years for an opportunity to enter into negotiations with the US, a major trade partner, on the signing of an FTA.