Sun, Dec 04, 2005 - Page 1 News List

TIFA negotiations to resume next year

BILATERAL TIES A senior US trade official said several major problems remain before a trade and investment framework agreement can be reached with Taipei

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

High-level trade talks between Taiwan and the US are expected to be held early next year in an attempt to iron out a string of trade conflicts between the two countries, a senior US trade official said in Washington on Friday.

Assistant US Trade Representative for China Affairs Timothy Stratford said that the two governments are now trying to put together an agenda for the talks, which would be the annual session of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between the two countries.

But, in an address to a luncheon of the Board of Directors of the US-Taiwan Business Council, Stratford cautioned that there are still a number of issues that are causing trade friction between Taipei and Washington, and indicated that they may not be resolved during next year's talks.

"There are things in the relationship that need a lot of work," he said.

Stratford, who assumed his post only two months ago but has worked extensively on US-China trade disputes, highlighted the dispute over Taiwan's ban on US beef as a particular irritation in Washington's eyes.

Describing the situation as "tense," Stratford claimed that the US "has provided to Taiwan all the necessary information ... that they need to see that US beef is safe and could be welcomed by consumers in Taiwan."

A lifting of the ban, "would be very helpful in supporting our trade relationships," he said.

Regarding the dispute over Taiwan's violations of rules governing the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), Stratford said "there is still much to be done [by Taiwan] to assure the protection of IPR."

In the wake of Taiwan's accession to the WTO in 2000, Washington placed Taiwan on its "priority watch list" of the world's worst IPR violators.

But noting "significant progress" in the nation's efforts to fight piracy, the US office put Taiwan on a less severe "watch list" category last January.

Stratford would not say whether Taiwan is now any closer to being removed completely from the watch list.

In the telecommunications area, Stratford said, "the picture is not entirely clear to us."

He took exception to an announcement by Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) in the Legislative Yuan last month of a rate cut for Chunghwa Telecom's mobile phone subscribers.

"I don't understand why the premier would announce a rate cut for a truly privatized company," Stratford said.

Stratford also took Taiwan to task for its stance on agriculture in advance of the international trade talks on the so-called Doha Round, to be held in Hong Kong later this month.

He said that Taiwan has been "holding back quite a bit" about its stance on the agricultural issue, which has been a major drag on international efforts to expand global trade.

"Taiwan has not been all that helpful, so we seek more work on that," he said.

On prospects for a free-trade agreement (FTA) between the US and Taiwan, Stratford appeared to leave little hope that an agreement is possible.

He faulted Taiwan's less-than-helpful position toward the promotion of the global trade agenda in such arenas as the Doha Round, and a lack of support within the US for such an FTA.

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