US trade chief Tai refuses to say whether Taiwan will be part of the Indo-Pacific pact

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Thursday declined to say whether Taiwan would be invited to join the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific economic plan, prompting criticism from the Senate that the island’s exclusion would be a missed opportunity. .

Taiwan has expressed its desire to be a “full member” in the future Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), part of the administration’s effort to counter what it says is growing economic and military coercion. of Beijing in the region.

The administration says the still fledgling IPEF aims to be inclusive, but it has not publicly detailed plans for membership. The IPEF is designed as a flexible economic framework that would align members on supply chain security, infrastructure, labor standards, clean energy and other issues.

Mr Tai, testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, called Taiwan a key partner, but said no decision had been made on membership.

“On the point of Tawan, we are generally in conversation with those who are interested in joining this cadre,” Mr. Tai said when Senator Bob Menendez asked him if the island would be invited to join the cadre.

“Participation in IPEF is still under consideration, and as far as I know, no decision has been made,” said Tai, the US-born daughter of immigrants from Taiwan.

Mr. Menendez replied that the democratically governed island claimed by China was a key strategic and commercial partner, linked to the economic security of the United States.

“I have the impression from this response that we will not include Taiwan in the IPEF, which is a missed opportunity,” he said.

The exchange follows a March 30 letter from 200 members of Congress from both parties, including Republicans Michael McCaul, Liz Cheney and Elise Stefanik, and Democrats Ted Lieu, Ro Khanna and Elissa Slotkin, urging Mr. Tai and the US Secretary to trade Gina Raimondo invite Taiwan to join IPEF.

“The inclusion of Taiwan would also send a clear signal that the United States stands with its allies and partners, and will not be intimidated by the PRC,” the officials said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

The letter was posted on the official Congressional website of Democratic Congressman Albio Sires, who provided it. also signed.

Some analysts say Taiwan’s participation in the plan could make regional countries reluctant to join for fear of angering Beijing, which opposes the idea as a tool for Washington to try to contain the surge. from China.

Last week, Raimondo told members of the Senate Finance Committee that the administration was not considering Taiwan’s inclusion at this time, according to two sources with knowledge of the closed meeting where she made the remark. .

“I think it’s a broader issue, that our trade agenda is sometimes out of step with our foreign policy agenda,” one of the sources said.

The Commerce Department referred a request for comment from Reuters to the White House National Security Council, which also said no decision had been made on membership.

Taiwan’s de facto embassy Washington declined to comment on Raimondo’s remark, but a spokesperson said, “As far as IPEF is concerned, Taiwan continues to exchange views with the United States through the through existing economic and commercial mechanisms and channels.

Although it has no official ties to Washington, Taiwan is one of Asia’s fastest growing democracies and economies, and a dominant producer of semiconductors essential to global supply chains. (Reporting by Michael Martina and David Lawder; editing by Andrea Ricci)

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