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Taiwan, U.S. want to resume TIFA talks early: official

2012/06/01 19:15:49

Washington, May 31 (CNA) Both Taiwan and the United States are eager to resume bilateral talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and discuss issues related to a free trade agreement, Leo Lee, Taiwan's deputy representative to the United States, said Thursday.

"Both sides have wanted to resume the talks early as they will promote bilateral trade and investment," Lee said.

The talks under the TIFA, which was signed in 1994 as a framework for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade-related issues, have been shelved since 2007 because of U.S. dissatisfaction with Taiwan's restrictions on imports of American beef.

Noting that the talks have been stalled for too long, Lee said Taiwan is hoping to work on negotiating "building blocks" to a free trade deal, beginning with e-commerce and pharmaceuticals.

With Taiwan's main rival South Korea signing free trade pacts with the European Union and the United States and launching talks with China soon, Taiwan is facing the threat of being marginalized and is hoping the long-stalled talks under the TIFA can resume quickly.

Christopher Kavanagh, spokesman for the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), said recently that the beef issue was "the only factor which thwarted our efforts to resume the TIFA talks in 2010 and 2011."

The AIT represents U.S. interests in the absence of diplomatic ties.

Washington was ready to resume talks in late 2010 but decided not to after Taiwan seized shipments of U.S. beef containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine, which is banned as a feed additive in Taiwan.

In March, the government proposed lifting the ban in tandem with imposing a standard for maximum residue levels to ease the deadlock, but the policy has sparked fierce opposition. Critics say beef with ractopamine residues would be harmful to consumers' health.

(By Lin Shu-min and Lilian Wu)