Taiwan is expected to be included in the US visa waiver program by September at the earliest, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Vice Chairman John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) said on Saturday while in the US.
Chiang said he has learned that the US Department of Homeland Security will send a team to Taiwan next month to inspect the country’s borders and airport security systems, before formally including Taiwan in the US visa waiver program, which could begin in September or October at the earliest.
Chiang arrived in New York on Saturday after attending the 60th National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
He added that Washington has made it clear that the visa waiver decision was not linked to Taiwan’s imports of beef from the US.
Chiang nevertheless acknowledged that the US beef import issue was linked to trade talks between Taiwan and the US under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
“If the beef import issue is not handled properly, the TIFA talks can be suspended,” he said.
“Actually the TIFA talks have been suspended for several years because of the stalled beef issue,” he added.
Chiang said that during his meetings with US officials and members of Congress in Washington over the past several days, he received strong messages urging Taiwan to resume beef imports from the US as soon as possible.
He said he had told US officials and representatives that there were certain procedures for the Taiwanese government to complete before easing restrictions on imports of US beef.
He also said the Taiwanese government has other hurdles to surmount over the beef import issue, which also has much “populist sentiment” in Taiwan.
The US has pressed Taiwan to lift its ban on beef containing ractopamine, a leanness--enhancing drug that has been found in some shipments of beef from the US that were earlier denied entry into Taiwan.
Amid speculation that the government might ease its ban on the drug to resolve the US beef import row, local pig farmers and the Consumers’ Foundation have threatened to stage a protest in Taipei later this month.
Taiwan currently bans the use of the drug, although the US and countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand accept certain amounts of residue from the drug in beef.
The TIFA, signed in September 1994, provides an official framework for Taiwan-US dialogue on trade and economic issues in the absence of diplomatic ties.
Taiwan and the US have not held TIFA talks since 2007, mainly because of controversy over beef imports from the US because of reported cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.
The talks, originally scheduled to resume early last year, were further delayed after Taiwan found ractopamine in beef products that same year and blocked their entry.