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U.S. government urges top 500 firms to engage in business with Taiwan

Three government agencies in the United States have sent a joint letter to America's top 500 enterprises, encouraging them to take advantage of the business opportunities offered by Taiwan through shared values and a strong bilateral relationship.

"Taiwan plays a key role in the international trading system, and U.S. states and businesses have had robust ties with Taiwan for many decades," says the letter, which was signed by David Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs; Ian Steff, deputy assistant secretary for manufacturing in the Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration; and Ken Isley, administrator of the Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service.

The letter, which was acquired by CNA Thursday, also makes a veiled reference to China's political demands on foreign companies with which it does business, particularly with regard to Taiwan's status and designation.

"The U.S. government does not dictate how private companies choose to label Taiwan and has publicly expressed our position that no government should impose political standards on how companies present information to their customers," the letter reads.

In the latest incident that highlighted China's fraught political climate, the French luxury brand Christian Dior on Thursday issued a public apology for using a map of China that excluded Taiwan, during a recent presentation in Hangzhou City about the company's network of stores.

In the U.S. agencies' letter to the top 500 American companies, they said Taiwan is the U.S.' 11th largest trading partner worldwide and its ninth biggest market for agricultural exports.

Taiwan is also the seventh largest source of international students in the U.S., they said, noting that visitors from Taiwan are eligible for visa-free travel to the U.S. and a streamlined arrivals process at U.S. airports under the Global Entry program.

"We hope to continue to deepen our economic and cultural ties with Taiwan, and believe commercial engagement is key to such progress," the agencies wrote. "Taiwan is a vital U.S. partner, and we hope that you will fully take advantage of all the opportunities Taiwan offers as a result of our shared values and robust relationship."

A diplomatic source who asked not be named told CNA Thursday that the U.S. federal government had sent similar letters to state and city governments in 2014 and 2016, encouraging them to develop economic, trade, and cultural links with Taiwan.

The latest letter, however, is the first of its kind to private enterprises, which indicates that the U.S. government is taking China's pressure on international enterprises seriously and is willing to take concrete action in response, the source said.

The source also disclosed that the U.S. federal government is again planning to send similar letters to state and city governments across the country.

The U.S. and Taiwan maintain strong economic and cultural links, although they do not have diplomatic ties and the U.S. adheres to a "one China" policy.

In recent years, several pro-Taiwan bills have been passed in the U.S., including one that encourages visits between the two sides at all levels and another that allows the U.S. government to sell arms to Taiwan on a regular basis to meet the latter's legitimate self-defense needs.

After Taiwan lost two diplomatic allies to China in September, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act, with the aim of helping to boost Taiwan's international presence.

The bill directs the State Department to periodically report to Congress regarding U.S. actions to strengthen Taiwan's international alliances around the world.

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