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Keep UK-China trade talks on ice, Liz Truss warns

Keep UK-China trade talks on ice, Liz Truss warns

by host

LONDON — Liz Truss will urge her successor Rishi Sunak to keep U.K. trade and economic talks with China on ice when she visits Taiwan on Wednesday.

The former British prime minister will use a speech in Taipei to urge the current prime minister to rule out the resumption of the Economic and Financial Dialogue and the Joint Economic and Trade Commission (JETCO) — both forums for U.K.-China discussions — according to remarks shared with reporters in advance.

British government officials were in negotiations last year about holding a JETCO meeting, but Boris Johnson put the talks on hold following a backlash from MPs when he was prime minister.

The U.K. government said it had “always been clear that China remains the biggest state-based threat to the U.K.’s economic security.” 

“Given China is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and the second largest economy in the world, it’s in the national interest to continue engagement particularly on issues such as climate change, global health and macroeconomic stability.” a government spokesperson said.

Truss, who touched down in Taipei on Tuesday, is the first former British prime minister to visit Taiwan since Margaret Thatcher went there in the 1990s. It will be seen as a direct rebuke to China, which opposed a visit by Nancy Pelosi last year when she was speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In her speech, Truss will also take aim at Europe’s Taiwan policy, labeling it “completely irresponsible,” and say the self-governing island, which China claims as its own, is a “core interest” to the Continent.

Since leaving office last October after just 49 days in power, Truss — also a former U.K. foreign secretary — has been advocating a more hawkish stance on China from the West.

In contrast, French President Emmanuel Macron told POLITICO in an interview last month that Europe should avoid getting dragged into a confrontation between China and the U.S. over Taiwan.

“I believe that it is completely irresponsible for European nations to wash their hands of Taiwan on the grounds that it is a long way away or not a core interest to our Continent. On the contrary, it is a core interest to the people of Europe,” Truss will say.

As well as putting economic and trade talks on ice, Truss will also call for Sunak to close Confucius Institutes, which promote and teach Chinese culture and language. Such a service could be provided by Hong Kong and Tawainese nationals who have come to the U.K., she will say.

She will also reiterate her call for China to be labeled a “threat” in Britain’s integrated review document — the U.K.’s foreign policy blueprint.

Truss will advocate Taiwanese accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, which the U.K. reached an agreement in principle to join in March. China should be blocked from ever becoming a member, she will say.

“There are still too many in the West who are trying to cling on to the idea that we can cooperate with China on issues like climate change, as if there is nothing wrong; that there are bigger issues than Chinese global dominance or the future of freedom and democracy,” she will say.

Truss will speak at the Prospect Foundation think tank Wednesday morning local time, before holding a press conference.

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