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US lawmakers urge tough line against Taiwan on beef

Reuters | Friday January 22, 2010

US lawmakers urge tough line against Taiwan on beef

WASHINGTON, Jan 20 (Reuters) — The United States should not resume trade and investment talks with Taiwan until that country reverses a ban on U.S. beef, a bipartisan group of four senior U.S. lawmakers said on Wednesday.

"We do not believe that the United States should move forward with these talks until Taiwan is once again compliant with its obligations," they said in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

The lawmakers said they also backed USTR’s decision to explore options under world trade rules to make sure Taiwan reopens its market to the U.S. beef.

The letter was signed by House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel and Representative Sander Levin, who are both Democrats. Levin oversees the panel’s trade subcommittee.

Representative Dave Camp, the Ways and Means Committee’s top Republican, and Representative Kevin Brady, the trade subcommittee’s top Republican, joined the Democrats.

Earlier this month, Taiwan’s legislature voted to abrogate an unpopular beef agreement reached in October with the United States. It had caused a political crisis for Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who was accused of ignoring public concerns about the safety of U.S. beef.

The legislature’s move was a major setback for U.S. trade officials who have battled for more than six years to reopen markets around the world to U.S. beef after the first case of mad cow disease was found in the United States.

U.S. officials accused Taiwan of being an unreliable trade partner and put further talks under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement on hold.

"Our president was right to suspend the trade and investment framework talks, and I don’t see how those resume until this matter is resolved," Camp said in a separate statement.

The TIFA forum has sometimes led to the negotiation of a free trade agreement. However, President Barack Obama’s administration had shown no sign since taking office that it was considering a free trade pact with Taiwan.

Levin said it was hypocritical of Taiwan to walk away from the deal it struck with the United States.

"The United States and Taiwan agreed, on the basis of science-based international standards and Taiwan’s own risk assessments, that U.S. beef is safe for import into Taiwan. We call on Taiwan to honor that agreement and stand behind USTR’s efforts to ensure compliance," Levin said.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Sandra Maler)

 source: Reuters