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U.S. beef decision not linked to trade agreement goal: vice premier

e-Taiwan News

U.S. beef decision not linked to trade agreement goal: vice premier

By Hsieh Chia-chen & Elizabeth Hsu, Central News Agency

26 October 2009

Taipei, (CNA) Taiwan’s decision to relax its restrictions against U.S. beef imports has nothing to do with any attempt to resume trade talks with the United States under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) , Vice Premier Eric Lilun Chu said Monday.

"Taiwan needs to step forward for the sake of its overall trade," Chu said in response to questions from the media on the government’s recent decision to lift a ban on U.S. bone-in beef and other controversial beef products.

Taiwan cannot rely solely on the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China and must therefore maintain the TIFA with the U.S., forge free trade agreements (FTAs) with its neighbors in Southeast Asia, and seek trade partnership with other countries, he said.

Taiwan must promote trade in every possible area, Chu stressed. Asked whether or not the government’s decision on U.S. beef would be used as a bargaining chip in its attempt to resume trade talks with Washington under the TIFA, Chu said "it has nothing to do with the TIFA." The TIFA between the U.S. and Taiwan was established in September 1994 to resolve bilateral trade issues and enhance economic cooperation.

It was also regarded as a stepping stone to an FTA between Taiwan and the U.S., and under its framework, meetings were held once or twice a year but were suspended in July 2007 after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on U.S. beef imports to Taiwan.

Meanwhile, speaking on the planned ECFA with China, the vice premier said the issue will be raised in the fourth round of talks between the two sides later this year.

Taiwan’s top negotiator with China, Chairman Chiang Pin-kung of the Straits Exchanges Foundation (SEF), and his Chinese counterpart, Chen Yunling, president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) , are scheduled to meet in Taichung City, central Taiwan later this year for talks on financial cooperation between Taiwan and China.

Chu said he could not forecast when the two sides would seal the ECFA because Taiwan must have the support of the public and the approval of the legislature before it can sign the agreement.

Chu promised that the government will stick tightly to its policies such as maintaining its restrictions on some agricultural products from China, and that the ECFA will reflect Taiwan’s best interests.