Taiwan, U.S. re-open TIFA trade talks (update)

Taipei, March 10 (CNA) Trade talks between Taiwan and the United States, as part of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), began Sunday following a six-year hiatus. Co-hosted by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis and Vice Economics Minister Cho Shih-chao, the seventh round of TIFA talks was scheduled to be held from 9:05 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., followed by a 45-minute joint press briefing at 6 p.m., the Ministry of Economic Affairs said in a statement. Nearly 40 representatives from both countries are taking part in the long-stalled trade talks. Officials did not comment before the meeting began. Taiwan has suggested that the agenda should include a U.S.-Taiwan free trade agreement, cooperation concerning food safety, as well as Taiwan's inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) -- a proposed free trade group made up of Pacific-Rim countries, according to the ministry. The talks will also cover negotiations to expand the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) enforced by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which could reduce global tariffs on a variety of Taiwanese electronic goods, the ministry said. The meeting came at a time when the U.S. is seen to be pushing for the import of pork containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine into Taiwan. However, Taiwan's government has reaffirmed its stance to maintain its ban on such U.S. pork. The bilateral meeting was moved ahead one day from the earlier scheduled date of March 11 and, instead of continuing for two days as previously planned, the talks will only last one day. The TIFA was signed in 1994 as a framework for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade-related issues in the absence of diplomatic ties, but talks have been suspended since 2007, largely due to the controversy over U.S. beef imports. In early 2012 the U.S. ratcheted up pressure on Taiwan to lift its ban on ractopamine in beef. The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou relented on the ban in the middle of that year, paving the way for the resumption of the TIFA talks. (By Jeffrey Wu)