Fri, Jul 09, 2010 - Page 1 News List

US rules out Taiwan free-trade agreement

NOT WITH USThe US State Department’s point man on Taiwan-China relations said that under WTO rules, Taiwan should be allowed to sign trade deals with other countries

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington, with AFP

The US has ruled out a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Taiwan amid a dispute over beef imports, days after the nation signed a sweeping accord with China.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has tried to sell the landmark accord with China to voters in part by arguing that Taiwan would now be able to pursue FTAs with more countries, as Beijing would no longer object.

“The United States has no plans to begin talks with Taiwan about an FTA at this time,” David Shear, the State Department point man on China-Taiwan ties, said on Wednesday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“Despite our excellent ­relations, I am disappointed by the lack of progress the United States and ­Taiwan have made on trade issues” in recent years, said Shear, a deputy assistant secretary of state.

Negotiations between the US and Taiwan on a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) — often a precursor to a full-fledged FTA — have been dormant since 2007.

Shear said such talks would be the best forum to discuss trade.

With lawmakers from farm states leading the charge, the US has been pressing for years for lucrative Asian markets such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to accept more US beef, causing friction with the close US partners.

The countries imposed restrictions in late 2003 after mad cow disease was detected in a US herd.

Some scientists believe humans can contract Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease by eating infected animals’ brains and spinal cords.

Taiwan agreed with the US in October to let in more beef products, but the nation’s legislature reimposed restrictions three months later after a public outcry.

Despite the disagreement, Shear said he hoped the beef issue would not “overshadow” other trade and he stood by US security commitments to Taiwan.

Shear strongly supported the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) that Taiwan recently signed with China and said that one of the goals under the pact should be to make Taiwan a more attractive place to trade and invest by lowering non-tariff trade barriers and by facilitating efforts by US and other foreign firms to base their regional operations in Taiwan.

Shear said that Ma had emphasized that he hoped Taiwan would be able to enter into new trading arrangements with other trading partners now that the ECFA had been signed.

Under WTO rules any WTO member is free to negotiate trade agreements with other members as long as WTO standards are met.

“And we believe Taiwan should be able to do that,” he said.

“We hope to see Taiwan become engaged in a broad range of international issues from trade to health to the environment. Taiwan has shown again and again that it can play an important role in the international community,” Shear said.

We strongly support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in all appropriate international organizations. Taiwan’s expertise can benefit the international community,” he said.

Also See: ECFA to lift GDP by 0.4 points: minister

Also See: FEATURE: Traditional merchants bracing for ECFA

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