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International Trade Minister Mary Ng leaves after making an announcement at Carleton University, in Ottawa, on Dec. 13, 2021.PATRICK DOYLE/The Canadian Press

Taiwan and Canada have agreed to start talks on an investment protection agreement, both governments said on Monday, part of the Chinese-claimed island’s efforts to boost ties with fellow democracies in the face of growing pressure from Beijing.

Taiwan has been angling for trade deals with what it views as like-minded partners such as the United States and the European Union.

While a member of the World Trade Organization, Taiwan’s only has free trade agreements with two major economies, Singapore and New Zealand, and China has pressured countries not to engage directly with the government in Taipei.

Taiwan’s cabinet said chief trade negotiator John Deng had met virtually with Canada’s International Trade Minister, Mary Ng, and the two agreed to start “exploratory discussions” on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Arrangement, or FIPA.

The cabinet statement said the move was “an important milestone” in strengthening economic and trade relations.

The Canadian government, which like most countries has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, said in its statement that Ng “highlighted Taiwan is a key trade and investment partner as Canada broadens its trade links and deepens its economic partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region”.

The direct meeting between the two government ministers could anger China, which has stepped up efforts to isolate Taiwan as Beijing asserts its sovereignty claims.

China views democratically-governed Taiwan as part of its territory with no right to state-to-state ties, a view Taiwan’s government strongly rejects.

Canada is also a member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, which both Taiwan and China have applied to join.

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