Bipartisan support for Taiwan gives hope for free trade deal, U.S. business group says

AmCham Taiwan Chairperson Dan Silver and President Patrick P. Lin pose for pictures during a news conference in Taipei

TAIPEI (Reuters) - The high level of bipartisan political support for Taiwan in the United States gives hope eventually a free trade deal could be signed, especially given progress on current talks, the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan's chairman said on Thursday.

Taiwan, a major semiconductor producer, has long campaigned for such a deal, in what would be a strong show of support for the Chinese-claimed island in the face of unrelenting diplomatic and military pressure from Beijing. It says it is a reliable partner for the United States with shared democratic values.

While Taiwan was in 2022 excluded from the Biden administration's Asia-focused economic plan designed to counter China's growing influence, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, or IPEF, Washington instead began talks with Taiwan under the "21st Century" trade initiative.

Speaking at the release of its annual White Paper, the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan's chairman, Dan Silver, said a significant portion of the building blocks for a free trade deal will already be formally agreed upon if the "21st Century" agreement is completed.

"The question will then become one of political will. And we can see through the USTR's priorities for 2024 released in the first quarter that Taiwan is very high on the agenda," he added, referring to the United States Trade Representative.

"Our belief is that we know bilateral trade agreements in general do not have the level of support in Washington they once did; we also are aware that there are few places that have a higher level of bipartisan support than Taiwan," said Silver, whose body represents more than 570 companies.

"And our view is that with the '21st Century' initiative on its way to completion, with the strong bipartisan support for Taiwan in Congress, there is a prospect that a bilateral trade agreement could be in the offing sometime in the future."

Beijing has denounced the "21st Century" trade talks as it does with all forms of high level engagement between the United States and Taiwan, which do not have formal diplomatic ties.

Taiwan strongly rejects China's sovereignty claims.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)