Any lifting of restrictions on high-level economic meetings with Taiwan by the US is contingent on improvements in Taipei's handling of intellectual property rights (IPR), Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) said yesterday.
Chien confirmed that the US had imposed restrictions on high-level economic meetings with Taipei in light of what Washington saw as inadequate progress on several thorny trade issues.
These issues include IPR protection, a new rice import regime as well as pharmaceutical imports.
Despite the government's efforts through legal amendments and enforcement to crack down on piracy, there's a gap between Washington's expectations and Taipei's efforts, Chien said.
"The US believes that we have not done enough," he said.
The US has expressed its dissatisfaction with Taiwan for what it sees as inadequate IPR protection, which it believes jeopardizes its business interests, Chien said.
Washington's frustrations were not directed at any individual in the government, he said, but were rather a sign of dissatisfaction with the outcome of the nation's efforts to improve IPR protection
"The US said it would be ideal to talk about the restoration of these visits only after some concrete results are in place," Chien said.
Various government agencies, such as the Executive Yuan and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, have a clear grasp of these thorny trade issues and are working toward solutions, Chien said.
A spokesman for the US State Department confirmed that the George W. Bush administration has imposed certain "conditional" restrictions on senior-level economic meetings with Taiwanese officials.
"We have conveyed to the Taiwan authorities that we will evaluate requests for senior-level economic meetings in light of both sides' need for progress on issues of concern," the US official was quoted as saying.
Taiwan is on Washington's Special 301 priority watch list again this year in light of what the US sees as the country's poor record on IPR protection.
The US official would not describe the US action as a ban on bilateral meetings, and did not elaborate on the level or the number of meetings affected by the decision.
Government sources have said the US assistant secretary of commerce and officials above that level have suspended their visits to Taiwan.
Three high-ranking US trade officials visited the country last year.
William Lash, assistant secretary of commerce for market access and compliance, visited Taipei in January last year, while Grant Aldonas, under secretary of commerce for international trade administration, came to Taipei that April. Joseph Papovich, assistant US trade representative, visited Taipei in October.