Taiwan's APEC rep holds talks with U.S. Vice President Pence

Taiwan's APEC rep holds talks with U.S. Vice President Pence (Photo/MOFA)

Taiwan's APEC rep holds talks with U.S. Vice President Pence (Photo/MOFA)

Morris Chang (張忠謀), Taiwan's representative to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders summit, met with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday.

At a time when the news media has paid close attention to whether Chang and Pence would meet with each other, officials from Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the two met at around 1:30 p.m. PNG time and held a discussion.

The talks were held after Pence finished a speech at the APEC CEO Summit, which Chang also attended. The MOFA officials said both met on a cruise ship, where the CEO summit was held.

A U.S. administration official also told a press pool that Pence "is currently having a 'pull-aside' with the Taiwanese head of delegation to APEC Morris Chang."

The MOFA officials did not disclose what Chang and Pence talked about, though the ministry said on its twitter page the talks between Chang and Pence are expected to "strengthen regional connections in promoting inclusive growth & shaping the digital future."

However, Bloomberg reported that Pence said the Taiwan envoy asked Washington to start free trade talks with Taipei.

"The conversation with them was about economics," Pence said in the Bloomberg report. "They were strong supporters of TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership and they made a case for being considered for a free trade agreement. And I assured them we would carry back that ask."

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) picked Chang, the founder of the world's largest contract chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), as Taiwan's representative to the APEC summit, praising him as the best choice.

Despite being a full member of the 21-member inter-governmental forum since 1991, Taiwan's presidents are traditionally prohibited from attending the leaders' summit due to China's opposition and have to instead send a proxy in their places.

This is the second time Chang has represented Taiwan at the APEC, the first being in 2006 under former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Chang arrived in Port Moresby on Friday.

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said his ministry would do its best to have Taiwan's representative meet with his American and Chinese counterparts in this year's APEC leaders summit.

Wu said then that Chang could raise Taiwan-U.S. trade and investment issues with Pence and extend some "goodwill gestures" to Xi, without elaborating on what kind of gesture could be made.

Before Chang departed for the APEC summit, he said he would propose initiating bilateral or multilateral talks under the APEC framework to address challenges in the digital age.