Environment is not right for TIFA talks: AIT chief
By Joseph Yeh, The China Post and CNAThe current environment is not conducive for the United States and Taiwan to hold a new round of high-level Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks, said the visiting chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), Raymond Burghardt, yesterday.
January 26, 2011, 11:46 pm TWN
“The U.S. side never did officially announce the actual date for the higher level vice-ministerial TIFA Joint Council,” said Burghardt yesterday during a media roundtable when asked by reporters to comment on the reason behind the reported suspension in the talks.
However, the current atmosphere is indeed not suitable for holding a meeting, he said, implying that Taiwan's recent decision to remove some American beef products that were found to contain ractopamine residue, a locally-banned animal feed additive, from the local market was the main reason for his government in suspending the scheduled talks.
“It is not a good atmosphere when we see local officials inviting the media when removing these products from local shelves,” he noted, adding that the move had made people question the safety of U.S. beef.
The AIT chairman reiterated that there was no scientific basis to cast doubt regarding the safety of U.S. beef, as Taiwan has failed to adopt the maximum residual level (MRL) of the drug allowable in meat, unlike 25 other countries around the world.
“It is the same beef for Americans to eat every day and it is the same beef we sell to other countries,” he added.
He noted that in 2007, Taiwan's Department of Health (DOH) and the Council of Agriculture (COA) had considered lifting the ban, prompting a massive protest from local pig farmers.
The two agencies later agreed to keep the ban, but proposed a revision of the MRL. However, the revisions have not been carried out, even though it has been determined that the drug is safe and Taiwan has said it would notify the World Trade Organization (WTO) of its intention to adopt the MRL standard, he added.
Prior to the comment made by the AIT chairman yesterday afternoon, the Central News Agency also quoted an official of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) making the same comment.
“We had hoped to resume high-level TIFA Joint Council talks early this year. However, we do not believe that the current environment is conducive to holding productive high-level discussions,” said Nkenge Harmon, deputy assistant U.S. trade representative for public and media affairs, in an e-mail received on Tuesday.
However, The USTR office did not comment on whether the ractopamine issue was related to progress on the resumption of TIFA negotiations.