U.S., Taiwan Agree to Resume Suspended Trade Talks

After three-year freeze, countries hope to restart negotiations by the end of this year.

The United States and Taiwan have begun talks on a key trade agreement stalled for three years due to a controversy over beef imports, according Washingtons representative office in Taipei.

A delegation from the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of Commerce met Taiwanese officials in Taipei this week to discuss the full range of economic issues, said the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).

The two sides began discussions about the agenda for the TIFA (Trade and Investment Framework Agreement), and agreed to have follow-up expert-level discussions on a range of issues, it said in a statement.

Talks between Taiwan and the United States went into limbo in 2007 over Taiwans ban on the import of U.S. beef-on-the-bone due to fears over mad cow disease.

Taiwan moved in late 2009 to allow U.S. beef-on-the-bone, cow organs and minced beef but partially overturned the decision due to a public outcry, which caused another delay in the talks.

The sides agreed to hold the next series of talks, the seventh round, at the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011.

The TIFA talks have become the most important channel for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade and economic issues, and Taiwans President Ma Ying-jeou has said he hopes they will lead to the signing of a comprehensive free trade agreement.

Taiwan banned all U.S. beef imports in December 2003 after reports of mad cow disease but relaxed the rules three years later to permit imports of boneless beef.

The AIT has represented U.S. interests in Taiwan since Washington switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, although the U.S. remains a key ally and leading arms supplier to the island.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

TAGS: Trade
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