Several Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers yesterday assured the public that long-stalled negotiations with the US under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) platform would resume if Taiwan lifted the ban on imports of US beef containing residues of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine.
Speaking to the media following a one-hour meeting with American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director William Stanton, KMT Legislator Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) said Stanton was explicit in his comments that he was confident the US has the determination to resume TIFA talks when the beef issue is resolved.
Lin said the impression he gathered from the meeting was that “once we make a breakthrough in the beef dispute, we will make headway in all aspects of US-Taiwan relations.”
The KMT initiated the meeting with Stanton yesterday to “highlight the importance of the beef issue to other subjects related with the development of bilateral relations,” KMT Legislator Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) said.
“South Korea had signed a free-trade agreement [FTA] with the US, which went into force on March 15, after it opened its market to US beef. Likewise, Taiwanese would like to know what the benefits are of allowing imports of US beef containing ractopamine residues. That’s why we visited the AIT to get a clear idea,” Tsai said.
Tsai said Stanton gave them “three promises” — that the US would resume TIFA talks, assist Taiwan in taking part in the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership and complete the process of including Taiwan in its visa waiver program — when the beef issue is resolved.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) proposed conditionally allowing imports of US beef with the feed additive after he won re-election in January, hoping to pave the way for the resumption of TIFA talks, but Washington has yet to offer any promise to reopen negotiations.
“At the meeting, AIT officials spoke affirmatively and sanguinely that a resolution of the beef issue would be of great help to both sides in making progress on other issues,” KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said.
In a telephone interview, AIT spokesperson Christopher Kavanagh declined to reveal details of the meeting or discuss Tsai’s remarks about the “three promises.”
Kavanagh said the beef issue “has been the major stumbling block to our bilateral trade relations with Taiwan” and was the sole issue that thwarted TIFA talks in 2010 and again last year.
“Taiwan is an important trade and investment partner for the US. We hope to resume our TIFA talks as soon as possible to advance our common trade and investment interests,” he said.
In terms of trade liberalization, Kavanagh said there have been some exciting developments in the region, with some countries signing FTAs with the US and “we welcome Taiwan’s efforts to be part of such long-term development.”
Taiwan’s application to join the US’ visa waiver program is at its final stage, pending approval by the US Department of Homeland Security. Kavanagh said the beef issue, which is a trade matter, has nothing to do with progress on the visa program.