President urges Taiwan-U.S. trade pact in meeting with AIT chair

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文, right) and visiting American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman James Moriarty at the Presidential Office on Thursday.(CNA)
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文, right) and visiting American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman James Moriarty at the Presidential Office on Thursday.(CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) expressed her desire for Taiwan to sign a bilateral trade agreement with the United States on Thursday during a meeting with visiting American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman James Moriarty.

“In terms of economics and trade, we hope that Taiwan and the U.S. will be able to sign a bilateral trade agreement,” Tsai told Moriarty during their meeting at the Presidential Office.

“This would promote economic and trade exchanges even further, boosting economic growth for both our countries,” she said.

Moriarty , who is in Taiwan on a seven-day visit, did not respond to Tsai’s call for bilateral trade pacts during his remarks. Instead, he congratulated Tsai for her successful re-election in January and lauded the progress that has been made in U.S.-Taiwan relations under Tsai’s leadership over the years.

Tsai has been pushing for a bilateral trade deal with the U.S. on several occasions. Despite support from many U.S. legislators, U.S. think tanks and the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, the U.S. government has not given a definitive response on the call.

In addition, the annual talks between both sides under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), a platform established in 1994 that serves as a major negotiating channel for high-ranking trade officials from each side, has been halted since 2017.

Observers suspect that perceived trade barriers by the U.S., such as the lack of openness of agricultural and service markets, as well as Taiwan’s restrictions on U.S. beef and pork imports, are the reasons behind the suspension of the talks.

During their meeting, Tsai also thanked the U.S. Congress for unanimously approving the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act Tuesday, a bill expressing U.S. support for Taiwan’s diplomatic alliances around the world.

She also reiterated that Taiwan is willing to work with the international community to fight the COVID-19 coronavirus, as the outbreak poses challenges to all countries.

Meanwhile, Moriarty vowed to redouble his efforts to expand Taiwan’s participation on the global stage, which he described as “a need exemplified by the ongoing spread of coronavirus.”

“Taiwan’s measured, transparent and evidence-based approach to containing this disease is testament to the strength of its democratic system,” Moriarty said.

“It also underscores for the whole world to see the value that Taiwan can bring to international organizations. Countries around the world stand to benefit from Taiwan’s knowledge, experience and generosity.”

Moriarty embarked on a seven-day visit to Taiwan beginning March 1. This is his eighth trip to the country since he assumed the post in October 2016.

The AIT serves as the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties. It is chaired by Moriarty, while its main office in Taipei is headed by Director William Brent Christensen.