U.S. pork not to be included in upcoming TIFA talks: minister

Taipei, Sept. 16 (CNA) Taiwan and the United States will hold talks under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) next month at the earliest, Minister of Economic Affairs John Deng (???) said Wednesday. Deng also said the issue of U.S. pork will not be included on the agenda of the upcoming round of talks. He said, however, that both sides have continued to communicate with each other on the issue, albeit on a small scale. Taiwan maintains a ban on imports of U.S. pork that contains traces of ractopamine, a banned leanness-enhancing drug. It is understood that the U.S. side wants to place the issue of access of its agricultural products to Taiwan as a top priority on the agenda, while Taiwan wants to discuss issues related to its bid to join the U.S.-proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the inking of a bilateral investment agreement (BIA) between the two sides. Taiwan previously prohibited imports of beef containing ractopamine, but lifted the ban in July 2012, setting the stage for the resumption of TIFA talks in March 2013. The talks, originally set to take place in April this year, were delayed because the U.S. was focusing its trade negotiation efforts on issues such as finalizing negotiations on the TPP. Deng also said that Taiwan needs to join the TPP, adding that if a trade in goods agreement with China can be passed, it would help Taiwan's bid to join the TPP. Deng made the comments while speaking at the "Third Wednesday Club," a group of business leaders who meet on the third Wednesday of every month. (By Tien Yu-ping and Lilian Wu)