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AIT says time is right to resolve Taiwan-U.S. trade issues

WASHINGTON -- James Moriarty, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, said Sunday that now is the time for the United States and Taiwan to iron out their trade differences by taking advantage of existing negotiating channels.

Moriarty said that if the two sides can use bilateral mechanisms like the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) to resolve trade irritants, it will help "foster stronger and closer trade relationships."

There has "never been a better time than now to resolve outstanding bilateral issues" if economic reform is to make major advances toward economic liberalization, Moriarty said.

The TIFA, signed in 1994, is the primary mechanism for dialogue on trade between the United States and Taiwan.

He said the previous meeting under the TIFA in October 2016 made progress in areas such as intellectual rights protection, market access for pharmaceuticals, improvement in the investment regime, and some areas of agricultural trade.

Another meeting could be held this summer in Taiwan to review those topics, Moriarty said at a dinner in Washington for a Taiwanese delegation headed by Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥), national policy advisor to the president and a former economics minister.

The delegation is in the United States to assess possible investments there and attend the Select USA Investment Summit, and Moriarty said that if even two-thirds of the investments the group has discussed pan out, they will more than double the size of Taiwan investment in the U.S.

The AIT chairman also praised the current state of trade and economic relations between the two sides, even while acknowledging that outstanding market issues such as pork and beef still exist.

Taiwan has been reluctant to allow imports of U.S. beef and pork that contain traces of a leanness enhancing drug -- ractopamine -- because of potential health hazards.

It relented on beef in 2012 after maximum residue limits for ractopamine in beef and pork were passed by a narrow margin by a United Nations food standards-setting body.

But Taiwan continues to ban ractopamine in pork, because of ongoing safety concerns about the drug and strong opposition from local hog farmers.

Certain U.S. beef products, meanwhile, are not allowed into Taiwan due to mad cow disease concerns.

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