Wed, Dec 01, 2004 - Page 1 News List

US-Taiwan trade talks resume after six-year hiatus


Taiwan resumed talks on a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the US in Washington on Monday after a six-year hiatus.

It is expected that some breakthroughs may emerge during the sub-Cabinet-level trade consultations, especially in fields of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and opening of the nation's pharmaceutical market, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Issues to be discussed in the two-day meeting also include agricultural trade and further liberalization of Taiwan's telecommunications market.

If all goes well, the US may remove Taiwan from its Special 301 "priority watch" list for IPR violations monitoring next spring, the ministry said.

Jack Lu (盧文祥), deputy director-general of the ministry's Intellectual Property Office, said in October that he is confident that Taiwan will get off the Special 301 "priority watch" list.

Tsai Lien-sheng (蔡練生), director-general of the Intellectual Property Office under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, told the Taipei Times late last night that there's no timeframe for the US to remove Taiwan from the Special 301 "priority watch" list for IPR violations monitoring.

"As we know, the USTR is still in the process of collecting responses from US copyright holders before reaching the final decision," Tsai said. "Since we have made so much effort in cracking down on commercial piracy and in IPR protection, the US agreed to resume TIFA talks this year ... But they never said they would agree to take Taiwan off its Special 301 `priority watch' list this fall or next spring."

The Taiwanese delegation is led by vice minister of economic affairs Steve Chen (陳瑞隆). Chen's US counterpart is Josette Sheeran Shiner, deputy US trade representative in the Office of the US Trade Representative.

Meanwhile, Minister of Economic Affairs Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥) will arrive in Washington on Dec. 8 to attend an international seminar and meet with US trade and economics officials, business sources said Monday.

Ho will attend a seminar to be organized by the Institute for International Economics, a US think tank, and deliver a speech to American business executives at the invitation of the US-Taiwan Business Council which also called for the resumption of TIFA negotiations.

During her stay, Ho is also expected to meet with Bush administration officials from the US Trade Representative Office and the Department of Commerce, the sources said.

As US President George W. Bush is still organizing his new administrative team for his second term, Ho said she is not sure at the moment which US officials she will meet during the visit.

While her itinerary is still in the works, Ho said the main purpose of her visit is to conduct direct dialogue with representatives of major US business groups, briefing them on improvements in Taiwan's investment climate and lobbying US high-tech companies, particularly those in the biotechnology, digital content and semiconductor industries, to use Taiwan as their regional operations hub.

Ho's visit is yet another breakthrough in the high-level Taiwan-US economic exchanges following the resumption of TIFA talks.

The two nations held TIFA negotiations in 1994, 1997 and 1998. But the talks were broken off by Washington in late 2002 after both sides failed to produce movement toward resolving a number of trade disagreements, which in effect suspended all high-level economic contacts between Washington and Taiwan.

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