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Taiwan, US hold ’productive’ talks

Taiwan Journal

Taiwan, US hold ’productive’ talks

By Annie Huang

20 July 2007

Taiwan and the United States completed bilateral talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement in Washington, D.C. July 11. They exchanged opinions on economic cooperation and agreed to launch the Consultative Committee on Agriculture, a new mechanism for dealing with bilateral food and agricultural issues.

The two-day meeting starting July 10 was the sixth under TIFA since it was signed in 1994 to resolve bilateral trade issues. Taiwan’s delegation was led by John Deng, chief representative of the Office of Trade Negotiations under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and that of the United States by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Karan Bhatia. A wide range of issues was covered, including agriculture, pharmaceuticals, intellectual property rights and the bilateral investment climate, according to a July 12 news release posted on the American Institute in Taiwan’s Web site.

"We’ve had productive talks on the full range of bilateral issues in our trade and economic relationship," it quoted Bhatia as saying. Deng described the meeting as "fervent and in-depth," according to a July 13 report in the Chinese-language Economic Daily News.

One of the main issues on which they reached a consensus was establishment of the CCA, which would serve as a platform for sharing agricultural technology and negotiating import and export of agricultural products, OTN representative Lee Joe-san said July 13.

Topics to be discussed under the CCA would include crops used for producing bio-energy and sanitary and phytosanitary issues following World Trade Organization guidelines, Lee added. Under the CCA, the two countries would sign a memorandum of understanding in the near future and hold its first meeting in the autumn.

Bhatia commended Taiwan’s progress in IPR protection over recent years, the AIT release stated, and acknowledged Taiwan had taken concrete measures, such as setting up an exclusive court to cope with IPR lawsuits—passed by the Legislature in March—and introducing civil and criminal liability for unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing of copyrighted material.

Vice Education Minister Lu Mu-lin, who also attended the meeting, responded in the EDN report that the ROC government had organized an ad hoc group to prevent illegal downloading and photocopying of textbooks, especially on university campuses.

Delegates from the two sides held discussions on pharmaceutical pricing and regulation, agreeing to cooperate in combating counterfeit drugs, Minister of the Cabinet-level Department of Health Hou Sheng-mou said in the EDN report. He added that Taiwan would continue to maintain a transparent mechanism for pharmaceutical pricing, and that the U.S. officials were looking forward to a clearer division between medical and pharmaceutical systems.

The meeting did not produce a positive result on signing a Taiwan-U.S. free trade agreement, however. Conditions were not ripe for talks on the FTA since the Trade Promotion Authority expired in June, Stephen Norton, spokesperson of the Office of the United States Trade Representative, stated in the EDN report.

The TPA, the "fast track authority," was granted by the U.S. Congress to the administrative branch for FTA negotiations, which the U.S. Congress had to ratify or reject within 90 days and without leeway to amend provisions under the agreements. The U.S. government inked an FTA with South Korea before the TPA expired, which is awaiting passage by Congress.

Deng expressed concern about the U.S.-South Korea FTA, which, it was considered, would have an impact on Taiwan, since the United States represented a major market for both Asian countries. "Taiwan is happy to see the U.S.-South Korea FTA in place, but Taiwan’s development opportunities must not be hobbled by the pact and Taiwan has to make comprehensive preparations to deal with the situation," Deng was quoted as saying in a July 12 report by Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

Stressing that the United States would team up with Taiwan to reduce the adverse effects of the U.S.-South Korea FTA, Deng maintained the ROC government still strongly advocated signing an FTA with the United States, and continued efforts would be made to call for support from U.S. businesses and Congress, according to another July 12 CNA report.