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US-Taiwan FTA not likely within next few years: USTR official



Washington, Dec. 6 (CNA) A ranking U.S. Trade Representative Office (USTR) official said Tuesday it is not likely that the United States and Taiwan will be able to reach a free trade agreement within the next couple of years as talks on many bilateral trade issues have yet to be completed.

Matt Niemeyer, assistant U.S. trade representative, made the remarks in response to a media question raised regarding the issue.

Taiwan has been working hard toward signing a free trade agreement with the United States, and several U.S. congressmen have requested recently that the Bush administration accelerate its steps towards the establishment of a free trade accord with Taiwan.

For instance, Pete Sessions (R-Texas), a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, urged in a letter sent to U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman last week that the administration should establish a free trade relationship with Taiwan as soon as possible as "the island is the United States’ ninth largest trading partner and a longstanding political ally whose democratic achievement is a model for the international community."

However, Portman said that Washington and Taipei are currently holding talks on a series of issues related to intellectual property rights and the opening of Taiwan’s telecommunications and pharmaceutical markets, stressing that the island must first resolve these problems before it can be placed on the U.S. list for FTA talks.

The two countries resumed in November of last year their Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks, and they are set to hold a similar meeting next month in Taipei to discuss issues regarding further liberalization of the Taiwan market.

According to Portman, the TIFA talks are a prelude to the holding of FTA negotiations between the two countries.

(By Jorge Liu and P.C.Tang)

 source: CNA