Fri, Jul 13, 2007 - Page 12 News List

US talks fail to resolve trade disputes

ON THE AGENDA Taiwan's negotiations with Washington covered a range of issues, including agriculture, pharmaceuticals, intellectual property rights and investment

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Taiwan and the US completed two days of high level economic talks in Washington on Wednesday, but did not reach agreements to end any of the major trade disputes between the two countries, chief Taiwanese negotiator John Deng (鄧振中) told reporters.

The talks, under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), were held at the offices of the US Trade Representative (USTR) and covered a wide range of issues, including agriculture, pharmaceuticals, intellectual property rights (IPR) and investment.

While the two sides made progress toward settling differences in these areas, no agreements resulted, said Deng, the chief representative of Taiwan's Office of Trade Negotiation and Taiwan's former No. 2 man in Washington.

Nevertheless, he said, he was satisfied with the session, the sixth between the two sides since the TIA was initiated in 1994.

"I am not disappointed," he said.

"I think the results are very positive. This is not the occasion to sign documents. All the agreements nowadays will involve a lot of experts. We cannot produce them in two days. But the important thing is using this opportunity to make sure we are working on the same goal, and we assured that. That we achieved, that is important," Deng said.

Overall US-Taiwan trade relations, the two sides agreed, "are healthy" he said, adding that it was agreed to expand the TIFA agreement to include more issues in the future. He did not give details.

On the piracy issue, much time was taken up by US concerns about illicit copying of material by students over the Education Ministry's TANet network at universities.

Lu Mu-lin (呂木琳), the political deputy minister of education, represented the ministry at the talks to explain what the ministry was doing to fight the problem.

"The US side was very satisfied with our efforts with respect to establishing a specialized IPR court, and passage of laws to handle internet infringement," Deng told the Taipei Times.

Despite this, the two sides apparently made no progress toward removing Taiwan from the USTR's so-called watch list of countries with serious piracy problems, under the USTR-administered so-called Special 301 trade law.

Varying degrees of progress were made on the three areas that were expected to be primary areas of attention: double taxation, Taiwanese government procurement, and investment access and protection.

On the investment issues, the two sides made "good progress," aided by four video conferences held before the Washington session to try to iron out problems, Deng said.

While the two sides continue to work toward an agreement, the negotiators set no timetable for reaching a final agreement, he said.

"We think we understand each other better now," he said.

On government procurement, the two sides agreed to "continue to work under the WTO framework," Deng said.

The double taxation issue was not discussed at any length, he said.

The one agreement the two sides did make was in the agricultural area, where they agreed to set up a "consultative agricultural mechanism" to allow the two sides to include more agricultural issues in their discussion with the aim of solving differences under that mechanism.

On pharmaceuticals, the two sides agreed to "work to fight counterfeit drugs" and to continue their dialogue on the pricing of medicines in Taiwan. Two working groups will carry out that work.

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