Wed, Sep 26, 2012 - Page 1 News List

US to send team to discuss TIFA talks

COMPETITION:Taiwan is trying to catch up with rival South Korea, which has FTAs with the EU and US, and is in talks with China. These three buy 75% of Taiwan’s exports

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

US envoy to the APEC Atul Keshap speaks at a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Mandy Cheng, AFP

The US will send an interagency team to Taiwan next month for expert-level talks on a wide range of issues, including talks on the much-anticipated Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), Atul Keshap, the US’ representative to APEC, said in Taipei yesterday.

Keshap, who is visiting Taiwan to strengthen bilateral ties, made the announcement during a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Taipei.

The declaration affirmed his role to pave the way for the resumption of long-stalled TIFA talks after Taiwan’s legislature in late July approved amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) that opened Taiwan’s doors to imports of beef containing traces of the previously banned feed additive ractopamine, a leanness-enhancing drug.

“My colleagues, together with many other US government agencies, are working with their Taiwan counterparts to explore [the] next steps in our bilateral trade dialogue, including with regard to our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks,” Keshap said.

Toward that end, an interagency team will visit Taiwan next month to conduct expert-level talks on a wide range of trade issues of vital interest to the two sides, the US official said.

Much needs to be done, Keshap said, adding that bilateral economic ties were complicated because they involve a diverse set of actors in the public and private sectors.

However, Keshap said he is confident Taiwan and the US can work through complicated and technical issues in a way that makes sense for both sides.

“Progress on our trade and investment agenda will not only improve market access for US and Taiwan companies, but will also reinforce Taiwan’s economic competitiveness,” he said.

Taiwan is seeking to catch up with main trade rival South Korea, which has secured free-trade agreements with the US and the EU, and is in talks with China and other partners to remove trade barriers.

The three economies account for three-quarters of Taiwanese exports, which are losing their pricing competitiveness on the world stage, attributable also to a lack of innovation.

The US is focusing on completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and aims to expand trade liberalization to countries across the Asia-Pacific region, Keshap said.

“The process is not painless,” the official said, as Taiwan’s government has indicated interest in TPP membership. “Visionary and sustained leadership will be crucial for any country seeking to participate in the future.”

Aware of great anticipation for the US to implement a visa-waiver program for Taiwanese, the official said he agreed that tourism is another area to improve ties.

“I heard this message loud and clear in almost every meeting I had these past two days … I fully share that anticipation,” he said.

The US received 290,000 visitors from Taiwan last year and the ability to travel under the visa-waiver program would surely attract more, Keshap said without elaboration.

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