Sun, Jul 01, 2012 - Page 3 News List

US lawmakers push Obama on TIFA

GET MOVING:Three representatives say in a letter to the White House that beef exports to Taiwan are such a small part of the US’ trade that they should not obstruct trade talks

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in Washington

Three members of Congress have written to the White House urging US President Barack Obama to quickly resume the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks with Taiwan.

The talks have been stalled since 2007 as a result of the beef import issue.

“While we recognize that Taiwan must take steps to open its market to US agricultural exports, many in the US would like to see a vigorous trade and investment dialogue with Taiwan as early as possible,” the letter signed by representatives Edward Royce, a Republican, and Democrats Howard Berman and Gerald Connolly says.

Royce released the letter on Friday at a Capitol Hill event to mark the 10th annual student Ambassador Program organized by the Los Angeles-based Formosa Foundation.

“Resumption of TIFA talks would likely encourage Taiwan to liberalize its trade policies,” the letter said.

It says that as the US continues to rebalance toward Asia, “Taiwan ought to be a key part of our evolving security structure in the Asia-Pacific region.”

“Restarting the TIFA talks would signal to Taipei that the US views Taiwan as a key and enduring partner in the broadest sense,” it says.

However, the US beef lobby is extremely strong and will fight to keep the talks on hold until Taipei changes policy and removes restrictions on the importation of US beef. Royce said after releasing the letter that he had been in negotiations over the last month with the US Trade Representative’s office.

“We know that there is some distance on the beef issue, but only 1 percent of our trade involves beef products and we ought to be able to work out a compromise that is acceptable to the people in Taiwan and the people in the US,” he said. “The first responsibility is to start talking to each other and that is what TIFA would do.”

Royce said that once “certain fundamental understandings” had been reached, the two sides could move forward with a free-trade agreement.

“As the US pivots toward Asia, what better place to start than this opportunity we have for more trade investment with Taiwan,” he said.

“If we don’t restart TIFA we will never have a free-trade agreement. TIFA will force the dialogue forward. We have waited five years, we have waited too long,” he said. “We are looking for a compromise, we need a compromise and the way to reach that is through TIFA.”

The student Ambassador Program brought 24 young people — most of them Taiwanese or Taiwanese American — to Washington this year for two weeks training in public diplomacy and how to operate in the US capital.

“Despite 100°F temperatures, participants kept their cool as they blazed across Capitol Hill stressing the importance of Taiwan’s democracy and holding a record breaking 176 meetings with members of Congress and their staffs,” Formosa Foundation executive director Terri Giles said.

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