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Taiwan-US trade deal irks China

Beijing warned Washington on Thursday against signing any pact 'with connotations of sovereignty' with the self-ruled island
A supporter of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) waves a Taiwanese flag during a rally outside the KMT headquarters ahead of the party's expected announcement of their 2024 presidential candidate in Taipei on May 17. (Photo: AFP)

A supporter of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) waves a Taiwanese flag during a rally outside the KMT headquarters ahead of the party's expected announcement of their 2024 presidential candidate in Taipei on May 17. (Photo: AFP)

Published: June 02, 2023 06:24 AM GMT
Updated: June 02, 2023 06:30 AM GMT

The United States and Taiwan will sign a trade deal on Thursday, Taipei said, in a move that sparked a warning by Beijing.

The Office of Trade Negotiations in Taipei announced that the first batch of agreements under "The US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade" will be signed in Washington at 10 am local time (1400 GMT), without providing details.

Washington has remained a key ally and arms supplier to Taiwan despite switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979. It is also the island's second-largest trade partner.

But Beijing detests any hint of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and other governments because it considers the self-ruled island its own territory.

"The deal that will be signed tonight is not only very historic but also signals a new beginning," cabinet spokesman Alan Lin told reporters in Taipei.

"Relevant tasks are yet to be completed... Taiwan will continue to move towards a comprehensive FTA (free trade agreement) with the United States to ensure Taiwan's economic security."

The initiative looks to boost trade by streamlining customs checks, improving regulatory procedures, and establishing anti-corruption measures between the United States and Taiwan.

Taiwan's government has described the deal as "the most comprehensive" trade agreement signed with Washington since 1979.

China warned Washington on Thursday against signing any pact "with connotations of sovereignty or of an official nature with China's Taiwan region".

The United States "must not send the wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces in the name of trade", foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a media briefing.

Beijing has stepped up threats and rhetoric against Taiwan in recent years, increasing military drills in the seas around the island and working to cut off its official ties with countries around the world.

The issue prompts rare bipartisan agreement in the United States, with politicians including Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his Democratic predecessor Nancy Pelosi both meeting publicly with Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen.

Washington unveiled plans for the trade negotiations in August in a show of support while Beijing was staging huge military drills in response to then-speaker Pelosi's visit to Taipei.

China lashes out at any diplomatic action that appears to treat Taiwan as a sovereign nation and has reacted with growing anger to visits by Western politicians.

In April, Beijing conducted three days of military exercises simulating a blockade of the island in response to McCarthy and Tsai meeting in California.

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