Taiwan-US trade talks scheduled for January


TAIPEI, Taiwan — A new round of talks under the Taiwan-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) will be held in Taipei in the second half of January, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang said yesterday.

U.S. Deputy Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis will travel to Taipei to hold trade talks with Taiwan’s Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Francis Huang, Shih said during a session of the Legislative Yuan’s Economic Affairs Committee.

Noting that the TIFA is an important platform for high-level Taiwan-U.S. dialogue in the absence of formal diplomatic ties, Shih said the upcoming meeting will mark the resumption of such talks after a three-year hiatus.

Shih said the new round of discussions will focus on major bilateral trade and economic issues of mutual concern, including partnership in the development of new energy resources.

TIFA talks were suspended in 2007 after Taiwan prohibited the importation of U.S. beef on fears of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, an incurable and fatal neurological disorder caused by eating beef from cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

In 2009, Taiwan agreed to allow most types of U.S. beef into its market, but because it retained some restrictions on certain cattle parts, the issue has remained a bone of contention between the two countries.

However, Taiwanese officials said recently that Taipei and Washington will not allow the sensitive beef trade issue to hinder overall progress on a wide range of other economic matters.

At the legislative session, ruling Kuomintang Legislator Ting Shou-chung expressed concern about Taiwan’s strategic response to South Korea’s recent free trade agreements (FTAs) with the United States and the European Union.

Shih said the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) has completed an assessment of the possible effects on Taiwan of South Korea’s FTAs with the U.S. and the EU.

As Taiwan’s information technology (IT) products are already tariff-free under the global Information Technology Agreement (ITA), Shih said, the two South Korean pacts will have a limited impact on local IT makers.

“But Taiwanese petrochemical manufacturers might be adversely affected by the two FTAs,” Shih added.

The ITA is a multilateral accord within the World Trade Organization aimed at expanding world trade in IT products.

In an effort to avoid marginalization amid a trend of global economic integration, the minister said, Taiwan is trying hard to start FTA talks with those of its major trading partners that are not diplomatic allies.

For instance, Taiwan will begin negotiations with Singapore on an economic partnership agreement early next year, he said.

“We hope a pact can be signed soon,” Shih added.