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U.S. recognizes Taiwan’s right to sign FTAs

FocusTaiwan News

U.S. recognizes Taiwan’s right to sign FTAs

By Zep Hu and Sofia Wu

8 July 2010

Washington, July 7 (CNA) U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Shear said Wednesday that Taiwan, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) , is eligible to negotiate free trade agreements (FTA) with other WTO member states.

"Under WTO rules, any WTO member is free to negotiate trade agreements with other members as long as WTO standards are met, and we believe Taiwan should be able to do that," he said at a seminar in Washington, D.C. on relations across the Taiwan Strait.

It marked the first time a U.S. official has clearly expressed a stance on Taiwan’s bid to negotiate FTAs.

Shear said, however, that "the United States has no plans to begin talks with Taiwan about an FTA at this time."

Taiwan has expressed hopes to sign FTAs with other trade partners after concluding a landmark economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China at the end of June.

"If ECFA is to be a truly successful arrangement, firms from the United States and other countries must also be able to benefit, " Shear said.

The statement was delivered at a seminar co-organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank, and Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, a Cabinet-level agency that charts Taiwan’s policy on China.

Shear said the U.S. would reinforce bilateral trade and economic cooperation through the existing Taiwan-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

On Taiwan-China relations, Shear said: "I think it’s safe to say cross-strait economic and cultural relations are healthier than they have been at any time in the last several decades."

The freshly signed ECFA "accelerates this positive trend, " he added.

While U.S. experts have not yet fully studied the ECFA content, Shear said, the U.S. government would be pleased to see the agreement help strengthen cross-strait civilian exchanges and economic ties.

As to whether any ministerial-level U.S. officials are likely to visit Taiwan, Shear said the U.S. does not have any such plan at the moment. The issue should be considered in a larger framework guiding U.S.-China relations, he said.