Fifty bipartisan U.S. senators called on the Trump administration to start negotiating a bilateral trade agreement with Taiwan, as part of growing efforts by lawmakers to impose tougher U.S. action against the Chinese regime.
The group of 42 Republicans and eight Democrats on Oct. 1 sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, citing Taiwan’s record as a longstanding U.S. economic partner and security ally as a reason to begin the process of negotiating a comprehensive trade agreement.
“We are confident that a U.S.-Taiwan trade agreement would promote security and economic growth for the United States, Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific as a whole,” the senators wrote.
Taiwan has long sought a free trade agreement with the United States, its most important supporter on the international stage, but Washington has complained about barriers to access for U.S. pork and beef.
In August, Taiwan paved the way for an eventual deal by announcing an easing of restrictions on the import of U.S. beef and pork that is expected to go into effect on Jan. 1.
The letter said that partnering with Taiwan’s industries would help the United States in its efforts to reduce manufacturing reliance on China.
“This diversification of our supply chain is critical to our national security,” the senators said.
Taiwan-U.S. trade last year was worth $85.5 billion, with the United States running a $23.1 billion deficit. Taiwan was the United States’ 14th biggest export market in 2019.
The United States, like most countries, has no official relations with Taiwan. The Chinese regime claims the self-ruled democratic island as part of its territory, and has not ruled out using military force to bring it under Beijing’s control.
Recently, the Chinese regime has been sharply escalating its military activities near the island. Meanwhile, the United States has dialed up its engagement with the island. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar visited Taiwan in early August—the highest-level U.S. official to visit since 1979—to sign a cooperative agreement on health.
Reuters contributed to this report.