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Taiwan-US FTA not in cards: US official

Mainichi Japan | September 15, 2011

Taiwan-U.S. FTA not in cards: U.S. official

TAIPEI (Kyodo) — A free trade agreement between Taiwan and the United States is not realistic at the moment as there remain many barriers, a high-level U.S. official said Wednesday.

Christopher Kavanagh, spokesman of the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s de facto embassy in lieu of formal diplomatic ties with Taipei, told Kyodo News the most important of those barriers is that the American president currently lacks trade promotion authority to fast-track FTAs through the U.S. Congress.

"Without trade promotion authority, it’s highly impractical for the USTR (U.S. Trade Representative) or for the U.S. president to negotiate a free trade agreement," Kavanagh said.

Kavanagh made the remarks amid a visit to Taiwan by Suresh Kumar, U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for trade promotion, who is the highest-ranking Commerce Department official to travel here since 2002.

Kumar, who met Wednesday with President Ma Ying-jeou, said in a luncheon speech the same day that Taiwan currently ranks as ninth largest trading partner of the United States and "will likely become the eighth largest in 2011."

"In 2010, U.S. exports to Taiwan increased 41 percent making Taiwan not only one of our largest markets but also one of our fastest growing markets," he said.

Taiwan and the United States signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement in 1994 as a high-level forum for consultation on a broad range of trade, investment and economic issues.

However, trade talks under the framework have been stalled since 2007 due to differences between the two sides on various issues, such as Taiwan’s restriction on imports of U.S. beef containing residues of Ractopamine, a food additive approved for use in the United States.

U.S. officials have criticized Taiwan’s government for creating a public misperception that there is a risk to public health from eating American beef products, suggesting it has ruined the atmosphere for restarting the TIFA talks.

 source: Kyodo