No free-trade deal without progress on IPR, Cohen says


Wed, Nov 19, 2003 - Page 1

The US will not talk to Taiwan about a free-trade agreement until Taipei does more to protect intellectual property rights (IPR) and live up to its WTO commitments, former US secretary of defense and US-Taiwan Business Council chairman William Cohen told American businesspeople at a lunch in Taipei yesterday.

Cohen also urged Taiwan to buy more weapons to defend itself against China.

"The reality is such that until we resolve the outstanding issues -- dealing with intellectual property, dealing with WTO compliance, dealing with opening agricultural markets and so forth, that it is unlikely we are going to see any kind of serious dialog take place between Taiwanese and US officials," Cohen said.

In April, Taiwan was placed on the US Trade Representative's Special 301 Priority Watch List of serious IPR violators for the third year in a row.

Cohen said he was "astonished" by a 127-percent increase in the amount of pirated products from Taiwan arriving in the US.

Cohen's comments contradict Ministry of Finance officials. On Nov. 8, the Directorate General of Customs Liao Chien-shun (廖乾順) said -- citing US Customs figures -- that from October last year to March this year Taiwan accounted for less than 1 percent of total pirated goods seized in the US, far lower than the ratio of 27 percent last year.

Liao said the figures made the case for Taiwan's removal from the watch list.

In recent months, the US government has frequently expressed its frustration at the slow progress Taiwan is making in improving IPR protection and complying with WTO agreements.

"We can't return to a system whereby we have meetings with our counterparts and lip service is given to these important issues," Cohen said.

The US has also been frustrated by the pace at which military purchases are decided here.

"Taiwan must take greater action to shore up its deterrent posture," Cohen said.