Fri, May 09, 2008 - Page 1 News List

US closes door on Ma visit before his inauguration

HOWEVER AIT Director Stephen Young said Washington was ready to work closely with the Ma government and help it modernize its military

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Washington has denied a request by president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to visit the US before his inauguration on May 20, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Stephen Young said yesterday.

Shortly after his victory in the March 22 presidential election, Ma said he intended to visit the US before he takes office “to improve bilateral ties.”

A visit “wasn’t needed,” Young said at his semi-annual press conference. “Frankly, it [the visit] was not necessary because we are engaged [at] a number of levels.”

Young said he apprised Ma of Washington’s decision during a recent conversation with him.

Young refused to say when the decision was made, or if Ma had expressed disappointment or anger upon being told.

Young will be part of a five-person US delegation attending Ma’s inauguration. The other members include AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt, former White House chief of staff Andrew Card, Frank Fahrenkopf of the International Republican Institute and Kerry Healy, former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.

Young said Washington was ready to work closely with the Ma administration, in particular on helping Taiwan modernize its military and increasing US beef and pork exports to Taiwan.

Asked about the possibility of a free-trade agreement, Young did not provide a direct answer, but said Washington was interested in forging closer economic ties with Taiwan based on existing Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

In a previous talk at the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, Young said he believes TIFA provides the best mechanisms to “bring about the needed liberalization of trade” between the two economies.

However, Young said that Washington’s hesitation in signing a trade agreement with Taipei was not influenced by the “Chinese element.”

Additional reporting by AP

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