Taiwan, U.S. talking trade again

AFP-JIJI

Taiwan and the United States resumed trade talks Sunday after a hiatus of more than five years as the politically isolated island seeks to join regional trade blocs.

Officials from the two sides were tight-lipped on the agenda of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement in Taipei.

The U.S. delegation was led by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis, according to a statement released by the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto embassy.

Taiwan’s chief negotiator, Cho Shih-chao, vice economic affairs minister, on Saturday reassured the island’s pig farmers, who have a huge political lobby, that pork would not be on the agenda of the one-day discussions. Pig farmers had been worried that Taipei might yield to U.S. pressure and lift a ban on imports of U.S. pork containing the controversial additive ractopamine in exchange for the reopening of the talks.

Negotiations on the trade talks, seen as a precursor to a full free-trade agreement, had been dormant since 2007.

The hiatus was prompted when Taiwan banned U.S. beef containing ractopamine, a drug used in animal feed to promote lean meat. Taipei amended the law in July 2012 to allow imports of beef to resume. Washington is the island’s third-largest trade partner and a leading arms supplier, despite switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.