President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday reiterated her determination to join the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the second round of negotiations, but remained silent on speculation that her administration’s approval of Representative to the US Shen Lyu-shun’s (沈呂巡) resignation was due to a plan to make a transit stop in the US on her visit to Panama next month.
Tsai made the remarks at a meeting with US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific chairman Matt Salmon and US Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson at the Presidential Office Building yesterday morning.
“Trade ties between our two nations have been extremely close. Taiwan was listed as the US’ ninth-biggest trading partner last year, while Washington was Taipei’s second-largest trading partner,” Tsai said.
The government plans to seek membership in the TPP in the second round of negotiations, Tsai said, asking for the support of members of the US Congress.
Taiwan has repeatedly expressed its desire to enter the TPP, but the nation’s reluctance to open its door to imports of US pork containing residue of the leanness-enhancing additive ractopamine has raised doubts about its determination to ease import restrictions.
Tsai’s administration has been perceived as leaning toward easing the import ban, particularly after Minister of Agriculture Tsao Chi-hung’s (曹啟鴻) remarks last month that Taiwan does not have the leverage to refuse imports of US pork containing ractopamine.
Earlier yesterday, when on her way to cast a ballot in New Taipei City in an election for the cadres of the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) local branches, Tsai declined to respond to questions regarding the reasons behind what some consider was the swift approval of Shen’s resignation.
It is reported that the move was prompted by Tsai’s alleged plan to make transit stops in Miami and Los Angles during her trip to Panama, which has invited her to attend the inauguration ceremony for the expanded Panama Canal next month.
According to a news release issued by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US on Saturday, Shen on April 15 tendered his resignation and applied for retirement as the scheduled government transition approached, but then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) did not approve his resignation.
“Shen originally thought there would be ample time left for him to bid a proper farewell to his associates after the new government approved his resignation, but he was ordered to leave his post early next month,” the office said.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Eleanor Wang (王珮玲) yesterday said that as the upcoming ceremony is an important event held by one of Taiwan’s most significant diplomatic allies, the ministry suggested that Tsai accept the invitation.
“Once the ministry receives instructions from the president, we make an all-out effort to lay out and execute plans for her international trips,” Wang said, adding that the planning process would not start without the president’s orders.
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