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TIFA talks could resume Jan. '13: official

The resumption of long-suspended bilateral talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between Taiwan and the United States may take place in January, a high-level foreign affairs official said yesterday.

The U.S. has already sent a clear message showing its willingness to reopen TIFA talks by sending senior APEC official Atul Keshap to Taiwan last month, the anonymous source told local media yesterday.

The next step that could pave the way for the talks is an interagency U.S. team expected to arrive in Taipei later this month to conduct expert-level talks on a wide range of trade issues, the official said.

With an upcoming U.S. presidential election next month, however, it is unlikely that both sides will reopen the two-way trade dialogue anytime soon.

A major personnel reshuffle could take place in Washington following the November election irrespective of whether incumbent U.S. President Barack Obama wins his re-election bid, the official said.

“We are hoping that the official resumption of TIFA talks will happen next January or next spring.”

TIFA was signed in 1994 as a framework for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade-related issues in the absence of official diplomatic ties. It has been suspended since 2007 mainly because of controversies over the import of U.S. beef containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine.

This July, the Legislative Yuan passed amendments to a food safety act, paving the way for the resumption of U.S. beef imports, and there have been numerous reports since indicating that Taipei and Washington are expected to restart talks under TIFA soon.

Chile Next Target for FTA Talks

The high-ranking official yesterday also disclosed that Taiwan's ongoing free trade agreement negotiations with Singapore and New Zealand could see major breakthroughs by year-end.

Since both Singapore and New Zealand are founding members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), signing trade agreements with the two countries will give a huge boost to Taiwan's bid to join the multilateral free trade agreement, which aims to further liberalize the economies of the Asia-Pacific region.

Taiwan is also setting its sights on talks with Chile, another TPP member, hoping to begin bilateral free trade talks with the South American country in the near future, the official said.

Taiwan's bid to be admitted to the TPP depends on its closer economic ties with as many TPP members as possible, the official added.

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