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Taiwan, US conclude TIFA talks in Washington on high note

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan and the United States have concluded their latest round of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks on Sunday during which both sides have made meaningful progress on several two-way trade issues, said the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

The two sides held in-depth discussions on a range of longstanding agricultural trade issues and agreed on the importance of making meaningful progress on these issues in order to deepen the overall bilateral trade relationship, according to a statement released by the USTR.

“U.S. and Taiwan experts agreed to continue fully utilizing the Investment and the Technical Barriers to Trade Working Groups launched at last year's TIFA Council meeting and build on recent positive steps taken by Taiwan,” the statement said.

These positives include clarifying investment criteria, lift data localization requirements in the financial sector, and to revise standards and multi-pack labeling requirements, it said.

According to the USTR, the Taiwanese representatives outlined plans to devote necessary resources to strengthen intellectual property rights enforcement during the meeting.

“The two sides also recognized the need for further engagement on IPR protection, including in the challenging but critical area of online piracy, as well as on pharmaceutical and medical device issues over the next year.”

  The two sides also updated each other on regional and multilateral initiatives and highlighted their close cooperation on various initiatives in APEC, their work toward the prompt conclusion of a balanced and commercially significant expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) at the WTO, achieving entry and full implementation of the WTO trade facilitation agreement, and efforts to advance the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement negotiations, the statement said.

This eighth and latest round of TIFA talks opened on Friday in Washington, D.C.

Acting Deputy United States Trade Representative Wendy Cutler and Cho Shih-Chao (卓士昭), Taiwan's vice minister of economic affairs, co-led the discussions to enhance the longstanding U.S.-Taiwan trade and investment relationship.

The TIFA was signed in 1994 as a framework for U.S.-Taiwan dialogue on trade issues in the absence of official diplomatic ties, but was suspended from 2007 to 2012 mainly because of controversies over imports of American beef containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine.

The U.S. has 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, the Legislative Yuan passed amendments to a food safety act, paving the way for the country to import U.S. beef containing ractopamine. The talks subsequently resumed in March 2013 in Taipei.

Taiwan Insists on Pork Issue

After Taiwan's lifting of its ban on ractopamine in beef products, the U.S. has been pushing the country to establish a maximum residue level for ractopamine used in pork.

Commenting on the pork issue during a press conference in Washington on Friday, Cho reiterated the government's stance that it will not lift a ban on U.S. pork imports containing the additive ractopamine.

Cho said that the U.S. hopes Taiwan will present what it calls “scientific evidence” that ractopamine is harmful to the human body. But he said that the government will keep the ban in place.

According to the USTR, Taiwan is the U.S.' 12th-largest trading partner and a top-10 destination for U.S. agricultural and food exports. In 2013, total two-way goods trade between the United States and Taiwan was US$64 billion.

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