The US believes President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has demonstrated the political will to resolve bilateral trade issues, Representative to the US Jason Yuan (袁健生) said on Monday following a meeting of senior officials from both countries.
The meeting took place between Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk on the sidelines of an APEC conference in Kazan, Russia, on Sunday.
Kirk told Shih that the US hopes major trade talks with Taiwan would resume once the dispute over Taiwan’s ban on US beef containing the livestock leanness-enhancing agent ractopamine has been resolved.
In response, Shih said that Taiwan would adopt a four-point policy to address the issue.
An internationally accepted safety level for beef containing traces of ractopamine would be established, imports of beef and pork would be dealt with separately, the clear labeling of imported beef products would be enforced and a ban on imports of beef organs would be maintained, Shih said.
Yuan said the discussions indicated that the Ma administration had the political will to resolve trade issues with the US, particularly the ban on US beef imports containing the controversial chemical additive.
“The US is encouraged by the development,” Yuan said
He said that previously it was US Deputy Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis who handled Taiwan trade affairs, but that this time Kirk met with Shih.
The meeting demonstrated the US’ commitment to Taiwan and sincerity on Taipei’s part, Yuan said. He added that the US beef issue has become a politically sensitive matter that has affected relations between the two sides.
“Once the beef issue is resolved, we can proceed to deal with several other matters,” Yuan said.
Talks between Taiwan and the US under the 1994 bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) have been stalled since 2007 mainly because of US dissatisfaction over Taiwan’s beef import restrictions.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on legislators yesterday to support improving relations between Taiwan and the US by approving the import of US beef containing ractopamine residue.
Resolving the controversial beef issue could help improve Taiwan-US relations and raise the nation’s competitiveness in the global market, said Bruce Linghu (令狐榮達), director-general of the Department of North American Affairs.
“We hope both the ruling and the opposition parties can fully support the positive development of Taiwan-US relations and the government’s policy,” he told a press conference.
Opposition lawmakers have said that Ma is sacrificing the public’s health in exchange for the resumption of TIFA talks.
Denying that the TIFA is “an empty shell,” Linghu said many important issues could be discussed under its framework, including a Taiwan-US free-trade agreement and Taiwan’s admission to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multilateral free-trade pact in the Asia-Pacific region.
“It would be unrealistic not to open the door or approach the negotiation table,” he said.
Taiwan needs to show that it is making an “effort” before it can gain US support for those initiatives, he said.