WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of Republican lawmakers seeking to counter national security and economic threats from China is calling for the United States to open trade talks with Taiwan, a plan which is “very much” on the radar screen of the Trump administration, according to the congressman who leads the group.
Representative Michael McCaul, who chairs the China task force launched by House of Representatives Republicans earlier this year, said such negotiations would be “an important foreign policy statement to make,” and help hold China accountable for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which has drawn fire from President Donald Trump.
“It is very much on their radar screen,” McCaul told Reuters, when asked if the Trump administration and its top trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, would pursue a deal. “I don’t think that Lighthizer has 100% approved it, but...it is one of the options on the table for them and I think a recommendation coming from the task force would carry a lot of weight.”
The proposal is one of 400 recommendations outlined in a report set to be released later on Wednesday by the task force.
The report will also recommend bolstering U.S. medical supply chains, sanctioning Chinese telecoms companies engaged in economic or industrial espionage, and evaluating whether the Beijing’s repression of its Uigher Muslim minority amounts to genocide.
Taiwan has long sought a free trade agreement with the United States, its most important supporter on the international stage, but Washington has complained about barriers to access for U.S. pork and beef.
Last month, Taiwan paved the way for an eventual deal by announcing an easing of restrictions on the import of U.S. beef and pork that is expected to go into effect on Jan. 1.
Taiwan-U.S. trade last year was worth $85.5 billion, with the United States running a $23.1 billion deficit. Taiwan was the United States’ 14th biggest export market in 2019.
The United States, like most countries, has no official relations with Taiwan, which is claimed by Beijing as sovereign Chinese territory. China has been stepping up its military activities near the island.
Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Leslie Adler
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