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May 23, 2017

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Taiwan-US FTA hinges on island's agriculture stance: experts

Washington think tank experts said Monday that any future free trade agreement between the United States and Taiwan hinged on the island's resolve on agricultural trade issues.

At a workshop hosted by the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) titled "President's Inbox: U.S.-China Relations -- What's Next for Taiwan, Trade, and Regional Competition," Center for Strategic and International Studies Senior Advisor Matthew Goodman said that Taiwan needed to put all issues on the negotiating table.

Taiwan needed to face up to the difficult issues while showing that it has the desire to pursue solutions to them, Goodman added. He said that if the Tsai administration proceeded in this manner, U.S. President Donald Trump would be even more willing to conclude a free trade agreement with Taiwan.

Goodman said that the ball was in Tsai's court and she needed to demonstrate whether she would pursue a breakthrough on agricultural issues, much like Japan did when it pursued entry into now hobbled Trans Pacific Partnership.

Taiwan's government has been pressured repeatedly by the U.S. to relax import restrictions on certain pork and beef products. Massive protests have been launched by civil groups urging a ban on U.S. pork containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine to be maintained.

Elizabeth Economy, Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies at CFR, believed that the recent telephone call between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Trump would not result in a de-emphasis on U.S.-Taiwan relations.

Economy said that the critical point was that call between Trump and Xi maintained cross-strait relations, Sino-American relations as well as U.S.-Taiwan relations. She expressed hope that Trump would find a way to allow Taiwan's increased participation in international organizations, adding that this was the desire of any leader of the island.

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