The United States said Wednesday it has agreed to launch formal negotiations on trade facilitation and other economic issues with Taiwan, as part of efforts to enhance relations amid growing tensions with China over the self-ruled island.
The first round of talks will take place early in the fall, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in a press release, adding that the goal is to come up with "high-standard commitments and meaningful outcomes covering" a total of 11 trade areas.
The announcement came as the United States has vowed to continue deepening ties with Taiwan in the face of China's perceived provocative actions toward the island in response to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the island earlier this month.
Pelosi is the third-highest-ranking U.S. official after President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Beijing views democratic Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary, and is opposed to any form of what it deems as official contact between the United States and Taiwan.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin expressed opposition to the upcoming U.S.-Taiwan talks on Thursday, saying, "China always opposes the signing of economic and trade agreements with sovereign connotation and of official nature" between any country and the island.
Wang urged Washington to "stop all forms of official interactions with Taiwan" and warned that Beijing will "take resolute measures to uphold sovereignty and territorial integrity."
The negotiations will be held under a new trade initiative the United States and Taiwan announced in June.
Taiwan has been hoping to become part of the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, known as IPEF, which was launched in May involving countries such as Japan, South Korea, Australia and some nations in Southeast Asia.
But the island's inclusion has been seen as potentially controversial as it could inflame tensions with China and complicate efforts to attract Southeast Asian nations with close ties to Beijing.
Some of the agenda items to be dealt with during the upcoming negotiations on the "U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade" are similar to ones highlighted in the IPEF.
Areas to be addressed in negotiations include trade facilitation measures, such as customs cooperation, paperless efforts and enhanced transparency requirements, and ways to promote farm trade, including through cooperative mechanisms on food security.
The USTR also said it will seek to collaborate with Taiwan on ways to address "harmful nonmarket policies and practices," apparently referencing China's extensive use of industrial subsidies, allegations of intellectual property theft and other trade measures that are deemed unfair.
Digital trade, promotion of environmentally friendly businesses and labor rights protection, including the elimination of forced labor in global supply chains, are also to be discussed.
Like the IPEF, negotiations are unlikely to look at tariff-cutting measures. Concerns linger in the United States that free trade deals and globalization have led to offshoring and erosion of U.S. jobs.
Taiwan's top envoy to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, welcomed the announcement, calling it "a big step forward in opening a new chapter in our trade partnership."
Communist-led China and Taiwan have been governed separately since they split in 1949 as the result of a civil war.