US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, is urging US Trade Representative Ron Kirk to promptly resume negotiations with Taiwan for a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and for a US-Taiwan bilateral investment agreement.
The negotiations were broken off last year by the US in retaliation for Taiwan’s restrictions on the import of US beef.
Because of fears of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as “mad cow disease,” Taiwan only allows beef imports from the US of boneless meat from cattle under 30 months of age.
Ros-Lehtinen wrote to Kirk, saying: “The resumption of TIFA talks and negotiation of a bilateral investment agreement have become even more important now that Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China are establishing closer economic ties.”
“The US must act to ensure that US companies have expanded access to that rapidly growing market and are not subjected to discriminatory treatment. These agreements with Taiwan are essential to ensure a level playing field, and I urge you to move quickly to secure them,” she wrote.
Exports of US goods and services to Taiwan totaled US$32 billion last year and US investment in Taiwan exceeds US$21 billion.
“The beef issue has held things up for more than a year and now Congress is entering the fray and saying: ‘Time to get going,’” said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the US-Taiwan Business Council.
“Reopening the talks will put the bilateral relationship back to normality. But the reopening of the talks is 100 percent tied to resolving the beef issue. Nothing will happen until the beef issue is solved,” he said.
American Chamber of Commerce officials who visited Washington this summer were told that the beef issue was on the verge of being resolved, in which case TIFA talks could reopen in Taipei in October with new Deputy US Trade Representative Demetrios Margantis leading the US delegation.
However, progress on a bilateral investment agreement may not be possible until the administration of US President Barack Obama completes its comprehensive review of US policy on bilateral investment pacts.