US, Taiwan to resume TIFA talks

By Helen Ku and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporters

Sat, Feb 02, 2013 - Page 1

Taiwan and the US have agreed to resume talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) next month after a six-year-long delay and discuss new approaches to fostering bilateral trade and investment, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said yesterday.

The talks are scheduled to resume by the end of next month, the ministry said.

The TIFA was signed in 1994 as a framework for Taiwan and US to discuss their trade ties, but talks have been stalled since 2007 because of a long-standing dispute over US beef products, including a Taiwanese ban on beef products containing residues of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine. Taiwan eased the ban on beef imports containing ractopamine residue in July last year.

Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Bill Cho (卓士昭) will meet Deputy US Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis in Taipei next month to resume the talks, the ministry said.

On the top of the ministry’s agency would be soliciting US support for Taiwan to join the US’ Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to avoid Taiwan being marginalized in the global market, Cho said.

“As regional markets become much more connected and the world’s focus shifts to Asia, we don’t want to see Taiwan miss any opportunity in the global market,” Cho said, adding that his negotiating team would stress Taiwan’s willingness to join regional economic blocs and try to make Taiwan a TPP member in less than eight years.

“It has been our position that everybody, not only Taiwan, should allow these products to come in without discrimination,” American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt told reporters in Taipei yesterday.

Burghardt declined to answer whether pork imports would be on the table for next month’s TIFA talks because “two sides are still negotiating on the precise agenda.”

The aspects of Taiwan’s market “which are not completely open yet” are what the US would like to talk about in trade talks, Burghardt said.

US pork producers will not export pork containing ractopamine residue to Taiwan as long as Taiwan prohibits such products, but “we have the permanent position” that food policy and regulations should follow international standards and scientific rules, he said.

The safety standards used to set maximum residue levels for ractopamine, adopted last year by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international food standards setting body, “was not specifically about beef,” he said.

In response to a question on whether the resumption of TIFA talks would be the first step toward the US negotiating a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Taiwan, Burghardt said TIFA was “a vehicle for regaining confidence in our bilateral trade relations.”

“It’s premature this time to talk about FTA. It really is. Let’s get the TIFA talks started. Let’s see how things go. Let’s see [if] confidence is really restored,” he said.

Burghardt said that the issue of Taiwan joining the TPP seemed to be “a less urgent question than some other [bilateral trade] issues,” because President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said that it might take eight years.

If Taiwan was really serious about joining the TPP in the future, it needs to consider what kinds of steps it needs to take and what kinds of reforms it needs to make to its economy, “all of which could be necessary to be a credible candidate for that kind of tough, comprehensive agreement on trade and investment,” he said.