U.S. to hold economic talks with Taiwan, Pompeo says

FILE PHOOT: U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach arrives at an airport in Taipei, Taiwan September 17, 2020. Central News Agency/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Undersecretary of State Keith Krach, who angered China with a visit to Taipei in September, will lead economic talks with Taiwan this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday.

Pompeo told a news conference that Krach would lead the Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue with Taiwan on Nov. 20. He said the talks would cover cooperation in a range of areas, including ensuring safe and secure supply chains and 5G security.

“The dialogue signifies that our economic relationship with Taiwan, a vibrant democracy and a reliable partner, is strong and growing,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo did not say whether the talks would be held virtually or in person but noted they would be under the auspices of the U.S. representative office in Taipei and that of Taiwan in Washington.

China has been angered by greater U.S. support for Taiwan, including two recent visits by top officials, Health Secretary Alex Azar in August and Krach, the undersecretary for economic affairs, in September.

Krach was the most senior State Department official to visit Taiwan in four decades after being named to head a new bilateral economic dialogue with the island.

The United States, like most countries, has no official relations with Taiwan, which China claims as sovereign territory, but Washington is required under U.S. law to provide Taipei with the means to defend itself.

China stepped up military drills around the island amid a sharp deterioration of U.S.-China relations in the run-up to the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, which was won by Trump’s Democratic challenger Joe Biden. Biden is due to take office on Jan. 20, but Trump has yet to concede defeat.

Taiwan has long sought a free trade agreement with the United States, but Washington has complained about barriers to U.S. imports. In August, Taipei paved the way for an eventual deal by announcing an easing of restrictions on U.S. pork and beef imports that is expected to take effect on Jan. 1.

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