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Will US Deliver on Taiwan’s Expectation of Closer Ties?

Taiwan looks forward to more military cooperation and high-level visits from the United States under Donald Trump—though both sides are likely to proceed carefully to avoid a backlash from China.

Trump has already said that he’s open to renegotiating the “one China” policy toward Taiwan. Even if the U.S. does not begin recognizing Taiwan as a state, Washington wants to boost informal ties with Taiwan, especially if it would be helpful to business.

Strengthening that relationship would probably bring arms sales, military exchanges, and an increase in the number of senior-level visits to Taiwan. Although this irritates China, it does approximate what the U.S. has done over past administrations.

Trump says he opposes multi-nation foreign trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has raised hopes in Taiwan that he might consider bilateral trade or investment deals that make economic sense for American companies.

“As Trump’s spoken of his desire for possible free trade agreements with partners who share our values and ideals, one can’t rule out the prospect of a Trump administration launching FTA negotiations with Taiwan one day,” said Sean King, Senior Vice President of consultancy firm Park Strategies.

Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen had a phone conversation with Trump on Dec. 2, during which they discussed security and Taiwan’s international space. Tsai still hopes to avoid provoking China, which responded to the call between her and Trump by persuading a Taiwan ally to turn to China instead. China also passed an aircraft carrier near the island last week, demanding that Trump drop any plans to give Taiwan formal recognition.

Tsai is expected to follow Trump’s lead in building stronger relations but avoid action that would provoke China by making Beijing feel that Taiwan wants formal diplomatic recognition from the U.S.

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