Wed, Sep 05, 2007 - Page 12 News List

US willing to move ahead on trade talks

SYDNEY GATHERING Minister of Economic Affairs Steve Chen met with a senior US trade official yesterday, while President Chen met with his APEC envoy Stanley Shih


The US is willing to move forward with the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks with Taiwan, and the two countries are discussing the formation of a bilateral investment agreement (BIA), Minister of Economic Affairs Steve Chen (陳瑞隆) said yesterday in Sydney.

Political issues, including the government's proposed referendum on whether to use "Taiwan" to apply for UN membership -- were not discussed, he said after meeting with Deputy US Trade Representative Karan Bhatia.

Taiwan and the US are making an inventory of their investment restrictions on various industries and will exchange views on some "critical policies" via video conferencing, Chen said.

The last TIFA talks were held in Washington in July and for the first time included the possibility of forging a BIA -- which usually precedes a free-trade pact. No timetable has been set for signing an agreement.

Chen also met with Australian Trade Minister Warren Truss to discuss energy cooperation. Australia is developing clean coal technology to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, and Taiwan may jointly develop the technology through state-run Taiwan Power Co (台電), which has a 10 percent interest in the Bengalla Joint Venture. That venture mines coal in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, Chen said.

State-owned CPC Corp, Taiwan (台灣中油) is also in talks to secure a long-term natural gas procurement contract, giving the two sides more chances to cooperate in the energy sector, he said.

Taiwan's demand for natural gas is estimated to be 8 million tonnes this year and will be even more next year, he said.

Taipei will support Australia's bid to set a goal of improving energy intensity by 25 percent from 2005 to 2030 across the Asian-Pacific region, said Bureau of Energy Deputy Director Wang Yunn-ming (王運銘), who attended a senior officials meeting yesterday.

Taiwan's energy intensity -- the energy needed to generate per NT$1,000 of GDP in terms of kiloliter oil equivalent -- fell to 8.6 last year from 9.1 in 2004, Wang said.

If Taiwan maintains that pace it will exceed the target, Wang said.

Chen and Minister of Finance Ho Chih-chin (何志欽) will attend the two-day APEC ministerial meeting that starts today.

Ministers from APEC's 21 members will voice their support for the multilateral trade system and urge a resumption of the Doha Round of WTO trade talks.

Another major topic to be discussed during the meeting will be regional economic integration, or the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

Even though last year's APEC summit set the regional trade pact as a long-term goal, members are still studying the feasibility of the initiative, Chen said. Ministers are to submit a report on regional economic integration to the Sydney summit. The report will cover difficulties to resolve, an analysis on current free trade agreements in the region and possible ways to carry out the FTAAP, Chen said.

Meanwhile, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) met in Taipei with the National Security Council and his envoy to the APEC leader's summit, Acer Group founder Stan Shih (施振榮). He said Taiwan will support all proposals aimed at treating member states more fairly but will oppose any arrangement that would sabotage its dignity and interests.

As the interactions between leaders of Japan, Australia, China, the US and Taiwan's representative will be the focus of media attention, Chen encouraged Shih to seize the opportunity to exchange views with other delegates to help them understand Taiwan.

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