TAIPEI (Reuters) - The United States and Taiwan will work together on infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific region and Latin America, officials said on Wednesday, in an implicit pushback for China’s own massive regional investment plans.
Washington is deeply suspicious of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative to build roads, railways and other facilities to link China to Europe, Asia and beyond, viewing it as a plan to entrap countries into China’s orbit with debt diplomacy.
China denies this.
The de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei said the new plan would support “quality infrastructure in emerging markets”, while Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said it dovetailed the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy with Taiwan’s own New Southbound Policy.
The latter effort aims to boost economic ties with southeast and south Asia, to cut the island’s reliance on China.
“The Taiwan-U.S. cooperative partnership relationship has gone up another level,” Wu added.
There were no immediate details of the volume of funding or investment projects, however.
The plan sets up a working group led by the U.S. Treasury Department and Taiwan’s Finance Ministry to identify and promote public and private sector collaboration in infrastructure investment.
Brent Christensen, the top U.S. official in Taiwan, said the pact, known as the Framework to Strengthen Infrastructure Finance and Market Building Cooperation, would offer a platform to promote more resilient supply chains in the Indo-Pacific.
The working group is due to hold its first meeting this autumn, he added.
Like most countries, the United States has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which China claims as its own. But the United States is Taiwan’s most important international backer and main source of arms, to Beijing’s anger.
This month the United States and Taiwan said they were seeking “like-minded” democracies to join a shift in global supply chains during the coronavirus pandemic, as Washington looks to ease its economic reliance on China.
Taiwan has also been keen to wean its economy off China, especially as Beijing steps up efforts at military intimidation against the island.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Jeanny Kao; Editing by Clarence Fernandez
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