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Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen tells US lawmakers she’s ‘confident’ about trade agreement

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 9/8/2022 Lawrence Chung
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Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen told visiting US lawmakers she is confident about signing a new trade agreement with the United States.

She said the latest visit by a US congressional delegation – despite repeated warnings from Beijing – underscored American support for the self-governed island in countering mainland China.

Speaking in a meeting on Thursday with congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat heading an eight-member bipartisan group, Tsai said she was thankful for the group’s visit.

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Latest US delegation to Taiwan includes eight members of Congress

“I also want to thank the delegation for visiting just as China has held prolonged military drills in the area. This conveys rock-solid support for Taiwan from the US Congress,” she said.

The People’s Liberation Army staged a series of unprecedented drills around Taiwan after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei in early August.

Washington said that the visit by Pelosi – the most senior US politician to travel to the island in 25 years – did not signal a change to its Taiwan policies, but Beijing took it as a show of support for the island’s pro-independence camp.

“I want to take this opportunity to tell our friends that Taiwan will not bow to pressure or coercion. We will defend our democratic institutions and way of life,” she said, adding Taiwan would actively deepen cooperation with democratic partners to safeguard peace and stability in the region.

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Beijing sees Taiwan as part of its territory and has not ruled out the use of force to take control of the island. Most countries, including the US, do not recognise Taiwan as an independent state. Washington, however, opposes any attempt to take the island by force.

On the economic front, Tsai told the group that Taiwan would continue to work with the US to forge even closer trade and economic ties.

“We have already announced that negotiations under the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade will begin soon,” Tsai said, referring to a trade framework the two sides established in June. “We are confident that through this initiative, we can sign a high-standard trade agreement and advance bilateral trade development.”

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She also said she hoped Taiwan and the United States could sign a double taxation agreement to create a better investment environment for both sides. “I look forward to your supporting this endeavour,” she said.

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In response, Murphy told Tsai that her group’s visit “is a symbol of Congress’s rock-solid commitment to Taiwan”.

“This message is especially strong coming from Congress, which is a coequal branch of the American government, with the power to craft legislation and policy that often remains in place across multiple presidential administrations,” she said.

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Murphy said that with the growth of US-Taiwan ties, there were more opportunities for closer cooperation and coordination in trade, security and cultural exchanges.

“One of the most important things Congress can do right now is to deepen the economic relationship with Taiwan and, in particular, by pushing for a high-quality free-trade agreement between the US and Taiwan,” she said, adding she saw the opportunity for cooperation across a wide range of areas.

She also offered Congress’ support for greater Taiwanese participation in international organisations, especially in public health issues, saying the self-governed island deserved to take part in international forums when appropriate.

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Taiwan has sought to increase its participation in international organisations but has been hampered by stern opposition from Beijing.

Murphy, vice chair of the House armed services committee’s subcommittee on intelligence and special operations, arrived in Taipei on Wednesday night as part of a previously unannounced visit. Murphy’s group is the sixth US political delegation, and fourth congressional delegation, to visit Taiwan since Pelosi’s arrival on August 2.

Unlike visits by congressional colleagues who flew on US military administrative aircraft, Murphy and her group boarded a commercial flight from South Korea, landing at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

She is expected to meet Wellington Koo, secretary general of Taiwan’s National Security Council, Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu and other senior officials during her stay, which is expected to end on Friday, according to the island’s foreign ministry.

Murphy’s bipartisan group includes fellow Democratic congressman Kaiali’i Kahele of Hawaii and six Republican members of the House: Scott Franklin and Kat Cammack of Florida, Joe Wilson of South Carolina, Andy Barr of Kentucky, Darrell Issa of California and Claudia Tenney of New York.

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