"Negotiations under the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade will begin soon," Taiwan's president says, assuring that the initiative will facilitate a strong trade agreement.
Taiwan is confident it can sign a "high standard" trade deal with the United States under a new framework, President Tsai Ing-wen has told a visiting group of US lawmakers.
Tsai told the bipartisan US lawmaker delegation at a meeting in the presidential office on Thursday that Taiwan would work with the United States to forge even closer trade and economic ties.
"We have already announced that negotiations under the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade will begin soon. We are confident that through this initiative, we can sign a high-standard trade agreement and advance bilateral trade development," she said.
Washington and Taipei unveiled the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade in June, days after the Biden administration excluded the Chinese-claimed island from its Asia-focused economic plan designed to counter China's growing influence.
Taiwan has long pushed for a broad free trade deal with the United States, its most important international backer and foreign arms supplier even in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.
READ MORE: China demands US cancel $1.1B Taiwan arms sales or face 'counter-measures'
Deepening economic relations
Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat from Florida who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, told Tsai she supported such an agreement.
"One of the most important things Congress can do right now is to deepen the economic relationship with Taiwan, and in particular, by pushing for a high-quality free trade agreement between the US and Taiwan," she said.
The group is the latest in a string of senior officials from the United States to visit Taiwan since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came early last month.
Her visit infuriated Beijing, which responded by launching war games near the island.
Tsai thanked the delegation for conveying strong congressional support for Taiwan just as China has been carrying out its drills, which have scaled back but continued.
"Taiwan will not back down," Tsai said. "We will actively deepen our cooperation with democratic partners to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the region."
READ MORE: US visits 'reinforce Taiwan's determination' to defend itself