The U.S. appears unlikely to pursue a trade agreement with Taiwan anytime soon despite Taipei’s interest and growing congressional support. Following a recent dialogue between the two sides the White House instead highlighted a number of trade irritants on which it wants to see progress.

At a virtual meeting of their Trade and Investment Framework Agreement Council, the first such talks in nearly five years, the U.S. and Taiwan recognized progress in several areas, including Taiwan’s enforcement of trade secrets protections and upcoming changes to Taiwan’s medical device approval process. However, they also acknowledged the need for intensified engagement to address outstanding trade concerns on market access for U.S. beef and pork, copyright legislation, digital piracy, financial services, investment, and regulatory transparency. Toward that end they agreed to convene meetings of several TIFA working groups, including on agriculture, intellectual property, technical barriers to trade, and investment, as well as other working-level meetings as necessary.

The two sides also agreed to form a new labor working group that will include discussion of ways to combat forced labor in global supply chains and pursue worker-centered trade policies. Other areas where additional cooperation is anticipated include wildlife trafficking, trade tools to tackle climate change, secure and resilient supply chains, and World Trade Organization reform.

The meeting also highlighted how far apart the two partners are on a potential bilateral free trade agreement. According to a Reuters article, Taiwan’s chief trade negotiator said he raised the idea directly with his U.S. counterparts and noted that Taiwan believes “if we continue to work hard we will achieve our goal one day.” Last year Taiwan eased restrictions on imports of U.S. beef and pork in an effort to resolve longstanding U.S. complaints on the issue and smooth the path toward a possible FTA. A bipartisan group of dozens of U.S. senators cited that change as well as other factors in recently calling on the Biden administration to “begin laying the groundwork for negotiation of a free trade agreement, or other preliminary agreement, with Taiwan.”

However, a press release from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative made no mention of an FTA and said only that the U.S. “expressed a desire for stronger and more consistent engagement going forward.”

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