The United States has signalled its support for Taiwan with a trade agreement as the island democracy comes under increasing pressure from China.
The agreement, the first under the US-Taiwan initiative on 21st Century Trade, is expected to set the stage for what US trade representative Katherine Tai described as “a robust and high-standard trade agreement”.
The initiative announced on Thursday includes cutting red tape at customs and reducing waiting for US businesses taking products to Taiwan.
There is broad bipartisan support in Washington for Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade Chinese province.
Relations between the US and China have deteriorated in recent years.
The US accuses China of predatory economic practices and has criticised Beijing’s crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong and Muslim region of Xinjiang and its bullying of neighbors, including Taiwan, over territorial claims.
“Beijing is likely to complain about this announcement, but its words will fall on deaf ears in Washington as negotiations continue with Taiwan”, said Wendy Cutler, vice president at the Asia Society Policy Institute and a former US trade negotiator.
Taiwan is the world’s leading producer of computer chips and supplied the US with 105 billion dollars (£84.6 billion) worth of goods and services last year, making it the 10th biggest source of imports.
American exports to Taiwan came to nearly 55 billion dollars (£44.3 billion), making it America’s 15th biggest foreign market.