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Taiwan-U.S. ties to next focus on trade issues: AIT director (update)

2012/10/03 15:57:17

Taipei, Oct. 3 (CNA) Bilateral trade issues between the United States and Taiwan will be the next key focus for the two sides, the new director of the Taipei office of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said Wednesday.

"I think that, certainly, on the trade side, we've got a lot of work to do," Christopher Marut, said at his first press briefing since assuming his post in mid-September.

Marut said the two sides need to rebuild trust in the trade area, but he noted that there is a lot of interaction and that both sides have embarked on the process.

No decisions have been made so far, however, on the long-stalled talks under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), Marut said.

A delegation composed of officials from different U.S. agencies will visit Taiwan later this month to further trade relations between the two sides, he said.

The AIT is the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Taiwan's Foreign Minister David Lin said at a separate press conference Wednesday that the most important task facing Taiwan in its relations with Washington D.C. is the resumption of trade talks under the TIFA framework.

Taiwan believes the TIFA talks can be resumed in the near future because it recently removed a key stumbling block in its trade ties with the U.S. when it began allowing imports of U.S. beef containing traces of the veterinary drug ractopamine in September.

Washington regarded Taiwan's previous ractopamine ban as a trade barrier and had hinted in the past that a resumption of the TIFA talks rested on the beef issue.

The TIFA was signed in 1994 as a framework for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade-related issues in the absence of diplomatic ties, but talks have been suspended since 2007, mainly because of the beef dispute.

Asked if Washington is now thinking of lobbying Taiwan to drop its ban on ractopamine in pork, Marut did not respond directly, saying only the U.S. has consistently urged Taiwan to set its food safety measures based on science and in a way consistent with international standards.

As for Taiwan's ambition to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in eight years, Marut said the U.S. supports any new membership that shows an ambition to meet the high standards of the trade bloc.

From the U.S. perspective, Marut said the current priority should be for Taiwan to rebuild confidence in the bilateral trade relationship.

"It is very premature to speculate where things might be out into the future," he said.

Taiwan is eager to be included in the TPP, which will build on the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (P4) between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore reached in 2005.

TPP negotiations currently involve the P4 parties as well as Australia, Malaysia, Peru, the U.S. and Vietnam.

(By James Lee, Elaine Hou, Angela Tsai and Elizabeth Hsu)