The likelihood of the US and Taiwan signing a bilateral investment agreement bears further consideration because of an issue related to US pork imports, a US trade official said yesterday in Taipei.
“The issues surrounding beef and pork imports do complicate the ongoing discussions about a bilateral investment agreement,” US Deputy Trade Representative Robert Holleyman told a news conference after the latest round of major trade talks between Taiwan and the US under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
The ninth round of the one-day TIFA talks was originally scheduled for April, but was delayed for nearly six months because the US was focusing on its efforts on finalizing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with other countries, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said.
Before yesterday’s meeting, Minister of Economic Affairs John Deng (鄧振中) had said several times that the talks would not tackle the issue of US pork imports.
However, media reports say that Taiwan’s ban on US pork imports containing ractopamine remains a priority on the US agenda, while Taiwan continues to express its desire to join the next round of TPP negotiations.
At the news conference, Holleyman said Taiwan should handle food safety measures — including US beef and pork imports — in a way that is based on science and consistent with international standards.
Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Bill Cho (卓士昭) said that Taiwan “will continue to separate permits for importing beef and pork.”
When asked if Taiwan’s ban on US pork imports would affect the US’ stance on Taiwan joining the next round of TPP negotiations, Holleyman said the two sides are facing challenges related to agricultural products.
“I cannot speculate whether the pork issue would affect Taiwan’s joining TPP negotiations,” he said.
However, the US welcomes Taiwan’s efforts on investment liberalization and its interest in joining the next round of TPP negotiations, he said.
Holleyman said that, as the US and its trade partners are focusing on finalizing the current round of TPP negotiations, “it would be premature to discuss the extension of TPP negotiations at the moment.”
When asked if the US would halt the next round of trade talks under TIFA in light of Taiwan’s presidential election next year, Holleyman said: “We fully expect to continue the TIFA talks.”
“It [TIFA] is not something that can be restricted by elections,” he added.