Fri, Dec 31, 2010 - Page 11 News List

Taiwan-US trade talks to restart soon: minister

TIFA:The Minister of Economic Affairs said a dispute between Taipei and Washington over beef imports will not derail talks on other bilateral trade matters

Staff writer, with CNA

A new round of talks under the Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) will be held in Taipei in the second half of next month, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) said yesterday.

US Deputy Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis will travel to Taipei to hold trade talks with Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Francis Liang (梁國新), Shih said during a session of the Legislative Yuan’s Economics Committee.

Saying that the TIFA is an important platform for high-level Taiwan-US dialogue in the absence of formal diplomatic ties, Shih added that the upcoming meeting will mark the resumption of talks after a three-year hiatus.

Shih said the new round of discussions would focus on major bilateral trade and economic issues of mutual concern, including cooperation in the development of new energy resources.

TIFA talks were suspended in 2007 after Taiwan prohibited the import of US beef over fears of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an incurable and fatal neurological disorder caused by eating beef from cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

Last year, Taiwan agreed to allow most types of US beef into its market, but because it retained some restrictions on certain cattle parts, the issue has remained a bone of contention between the two countries.

However, Taiwanese officials said recently that Taipei and Washington would not allow the sensitive beef trade issue to hinder overall progress on a wide range of other economic matters.

At the legislative session, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) expressed concern about Taiwan’s strategic response to South Korea’s recent free-trade agreements (FTAs) with the US and the EU.

Shih said the Ministry of Economic Affairs has completed an assessment of the possible effects on Taiwan of South Korea’s FTAs with the US and the EU.

As Taiwan’s IT products are -already tariff-free under the global Information Technology Agreement (ITA), Shih said, the two South Korean pacts will have a limited impact on local IT makers.

“But Taiwanese petrochemical manufacturers might be adversely affected by the two FTAs,” Shih said.

The ITA is a multilateral accord within the WTO aimed at expanding world trade in IT products.

In an effort to avoid marginalization amid a trend toward global economic integration, the minister said, Taiwan is trying hard to start FTA talks with those of its major trading partners that are not diplomatic allies.

For instance, Taiwan will begin negotiations with Singapore on an economic partnership agreement early next year, he said.

“We hope a pact can be signed soon,” Shih said.

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