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AIT confirms difficulty in scheduling TIFA this year

2017/11/27 17:14:17

Wang Mei-hua (王美花/CNA file photo)

Taipei, Nov. 27 (CNA) The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) confirmed on Tuesday that the United States and Taiwan have not yet scheduled a date for their next round talks under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

The confirmation came a day after Minister without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中), who also heads the Cabinet's Office of Trade Negotiations, told the CNA that the TIFA talks were unlikely to be held this year because the U.S. had not yet filled its vacant deputy trade representative posts.

According to Deng, the three deputy representative positions in the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) office are currently vacant, and while President Donald Trump's administration has named people to those positions, they have not yet been confirmed by Congress.

Even if the U.S. Congress quickly approves the nominations, "there won't be time to hold (the TIFA talks) this year," given the length of time it takes to process the appointments at an administrative level, Deng told CNA in an exclusive interview.

Asked to comment on the issue, AIT spokesman Sonia Urbom confirmed that the two sides have not yet scheduled a date for their next TIFA council meeting.

"Our TIFA council meetings with Taiwan typically include the Deputy U.S. Trade Representative," Urbom said. "This position is currently vacant, so that makes it difficult to make decisions about the scheduling of a TIFA meeting."

AIT represents U.S. interest in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

In 1994, Taiwan and the U.S. signed the bilateral trade agreement under which have since held 10 rounds of trade talks.

TIFA is the major negotiating channel for high-ranking trade officials of the two countries, led by officials at the deputy minister level.

The most recent round of the talks was led by Taiwan's Vice Economics Minister Wang Mei-hua (王美花) and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Robert Holleyman in 2016.

The TIFA meeting was first held in 1995 and continued in 1997, 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2007, taking place in Taipei and Washington D.C. on a rotating basis, until a five-year gap occurred from 2008 to 2012 due to disputes over imports of U.S. beef containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine.

The U.S. regarded Taiwan's ractopamine ban as a trade barrier and implied on numerous occasions that a resumption of bilateral talks under the TIFA rested on the resolution of the beef issue.

In July 2012, Taiwan's Legislative Yuan passed amendments to a food safety act, paving the way for the importation of U.S. beef containing ractopamine. The TIFA talks subsequently resumed in March 2013 in Taipei.

(By Joseph Yeh)