Taiwan, U.S. re-open TIFA trade talks (update 2)

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 nearly 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. The U.S. delegation is composed of about 19 economic and trade officials from the Department of State, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce. Taiwan's delegation is made up of officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Council of Agriculture, the Department of Health, the Ministry of Finance and the Financial Supervisory Commission. The talks are expected to cover negotiations on expanding 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 Economics Ministry said. Taiwan was also hoping to put a number of other issues on the talks' agenda, including improving cooperation with the U.S. in multilateral arenas such as the WTO and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, it added. Taiwan was also looking to touch on a U.S.-Taiwan free trade agreement, cooperation on food safety, and its inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) -- a proposed free trade group made up of Pacific-Rim countries. In addition, Taiwan wanted to discuss enhancing the protection of trade secrets and establishing a task force to remove technical barriers to trade. 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 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)