Beef issues affect US-Taiwan free trade talks: U.S. official
Taipei, April 12 (CNA) — The lingering beef dispute was why Taiwan has been unable to hold a new round of high-level trade talks with the United States and why it has lost congressional support for the negotiation, according to a U.S. official Tuesday.
Taiwan has failed to implement a beef protocol it signed with the U.S. in October 2009 and has enforced "unscientific restrictions" with its partial ban on U.S. beef, said Rick Ruzicka, director for Trade and Commercial Programs at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).
Ruzicka made the comments at a seminar held in Washington to discuss "Taiwan’s Future in the Asian Economic Order", which aimed to examine, among other things, whether trade agreements are essential to Taiwan’s integration into the region.
The practice has complicated the bilateral relations and has sent confusing information to Taiwanese consumers, he said, adding that the measure has also caused Taiwan’s credibility as a responsible trade partner to be questioned.
The AIT official said the U.S. Congress has expressed serious concerns to the practice as senior members on Agricultural Committee in both the Senate and the House of Representatives withdrawing their support to a new round of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Joint Council meeting between the two countries.
The TIFA is an official framework for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade and economic issues in the absence of diplomatic ties. TIFA talks have been suspended since 2007 mainly because of a controversy over beef imports from the U.S.
The two countries had hoped to resume the suspended negotiations in the last week of January.
Washington decided to postpone the talks, however, when Taiwan blocked some shipments of U.S. beef after finding that they contained residues of ractopamine, an animal feed additive banned in Taiwan that promotes leanness.
The U.S. has shown strong support for Taiwan’s participation in international organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum but Taiwan also has to display its willingness to be a responsible member of the international trade community, Ruzicka said.
Speaking at the same seminar, Jay Eizenstat, a legal consultant of Miller and Chevalier law firm, said the United States should not suspend trade negotiations because of disputes over beef, which represents only a minimal part of bilateral trade volume.
In Taipei, AIT spokesman Chris Kavanagh reiterated the same position of the U.S. government, saying that Washington "does not think the current environment is conducive to holding productive high-level discussions."
He urged Taiwan to review the letter written to President Ma Ying-jeou by four Senators and Congressmen, including Max Baucus, Orrin Hatch, Dave Camp and Sander Levin on February 17 to better understand the U.S. position on the matter.
Bruce Linghu, Director-General of the Department of North American Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) , said the United States has always made clear that the beef dispute and the TIFA talks are separate issues.
And it’s not up to the MOFA to make the final decision on the matter, because ractopamine has been banned by the Council of Agriculture and the dispute could not be resolved until the ban is lifted. (By Jorge Liu and Chris Wang) enditem/jc