Fri, Mar 22, 2013 - Page 13 News List

US trade envoy cites important relationship

BIG PICTURE:Saying too much focus is given to the issue of US pork imports, Demetrios Marantis said the two sides enjoyed a positive relationship across a wide range of issues

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in Washington

Acting US Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said on Wednesday that Washington was continuing to “deepen the very important trade and investment relationship” with Taiwan, but he also seemed to indicate that no breakthrough was in sight on the contentious pork issue.

Asked at a Foreign Press Center briefing how the two sides could reconcile, he had no new formulas to suggest.

“I was recently in Taipei to hold our high-level Trade and Investment Framework Agreement [TIFA] talks and we talked about many issues, including agricultural market access. The US has very strong views on the issue of our meat exports and the Taiwan authorities have a strong view as well,” he said.

Marantis said that he thought there was “too much focus” given to the pork issue at the expense of “looking at how important our overall economic relationship is with Taiwan.”

Pressed again on the pork issue, the trade official said that with all of its partners, the US pushes very hard to ensure that food safety measures are based on science and are consistent with international rules.

“Whether it’s Taiwan or any other partner, that is what we will continue to press,” he said. “We all have obligations as part of membership of the WTO. We all have obligations to follow the rules of the road, and we have difficulties and tough issues, and we need to figure out how to best work through them.”

“Taiwan is, I believe, the 11th-largest trading partner of the US and we have a range of issues that we focused on at the TIFA,” he added.

The two sides agreed to establish bilateral working groups on technical barriers to trade, as well as on investment, he said.

“Those working groups give us the opportunity of troubleshooting problems that exist before they become major problems,” he said.

As an example, he said that both sides agreed on a series of joint investment principles designed to encourage a level playing field for investments.

“Given the amount of investments that US companies have in Taiwan and the amount of investments that Taiwan companies have in the US, working together to build that aspect of our relationship is very positive,” he said.

He said there had also been talks on other subjects, such as intellectual property.

“It was a very productive set of meetings and I look forward to our work continuing at the working level over the course of the year so that we can invite our counterparts from Taiwan to Washington next year to hold the next high-level TIFA,” he said.

Marantis was asked if the US might soon “persuade” both China and Taiwan to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“The whole point of the TPP is to serve as a platform for integration in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

“We don’t invite countries or economies to join — it’s the reverse. If an economy is interested in meeting the high standards of the TPP agreement it needs to express that interest. The 11 TPP partners then decide by consensus whether or not to admit a new member. So whether it’s China or Taiwan, it’s incumbent upon those economies to be able to convince the other TPP partners that they are capable of meeting the high standards that we’re negotiating,” Marantis added.

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