The annual Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) council meeting is likely to take place before the end of the year, as US Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin said yesterday in Taipei that the US and Taiwan are “trying hard to make that happen.”
“TIFA is the best place to discuss investment and trade-related issues. We really hope to get the TIFA back before the end of the year on an official vehicle,” Rivkin said at a press conference yesterday as he prepared to conclude his first official visit to Taiwan.
The delay in scheduling a date for this year’s TIFA council meeting, which usually takes place in spring, has aroused speculation that the reason was again the US’ displeasure at agricultural trade matters, this time related to pork, similar to the reasons behind the suspension of the TIFA talks from 2008 to 2012 due to a row over US beef.
Asked whether any of the longstanding trade irritants between Taiwan and the US being resolved during his trip had led to the prospect of a new round of TIFA talks, Rivkin said that the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has been very focused on negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.
The negotiations among the current 12 TPP members on the agreement the USTR has been working on is “not directly correlated to TIFA,” but it is a factor, Rivkin said.
Since Rivkin arrived in Taiwan on Sunday, he has had meetings with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Vice Premier Simon Chang (張善政), Minister of Economic Affairs John Deng (鄧振中), Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) and national security officials.
Rivkin said he had gone through many trade disputes with the Taiwanese authorities, including market access, agricultural decisions based on scientific evidence, criteria for investments — transparency, predictability and the rule of law, among other issues — but he did not go into details about the discussions when asked at the press conference.
“If we focus too much on one thing, it would imply that is the issue, but trade is very complicated,” Rivkin said, adding that the discussions were multi-faceted and complex, involving a number of issues. “I have had very productive meetings in general.”
Pressed with a question regarding the ban on US pork containing residues of ractopamine, an additive to enhance leanness, and restrictions on certain US beef products, Rivkin said that “those were very high-profile and important issues.”
Aside from the TIFA vehicle, the US has had discussions with Taiwan “all the time” to urge Taiwanese authorities to accelerate reform efforts to address the longstanding issues in the relationship to “increase its attractiveness as a potential partner,” Rivkin said.
Meanwhile, Rivkin said that the US “appreciates” Taiwan’s interest in joining the TPP.
“TPP is the highest-standard trade deal ever conceived and anyone that is interested in joining the TPP will have to meet those standards. Sometimes it would require political will and making tough decisions,” Rivkin said.
“Overall, there are a lot of known issues would have to be overcome, if one day Taiwan would be considered for membership of the TPP,” he said.