Taiwan-U.S. TIFA talks may be suspended this year: trade official

Taipei-Talks between Taiwan and the United States under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) will likely not be held this year because the U.S. has yet to fill its vacant deputy trade representative posts, a local official has said.

According to Minister without Portfolio John Deng (???), who also heads the Cabinet's Office of Trade Negotiations, the talks have been conducted by the two countries' deputy trade ministers since 2004.

But the three deputy representative positions in the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) office are currently vacant, and while the Donald Trump administration has named people to take those positions they have yet to be confirmed by Congress, Deng said.

Even if the U.S. Congress quickly approves the nominations, "there won't be time to hold (the TIFA talks) this year," given the length of time it takes to process the appointments at an administrative level, Deng told CNA.

Taiwan and the U.S., one of its largest trade partners, signed the bilateral trade agreement in 1994. The two sides have held 10 rounds of trade talks since then under the TIFA platform, the most important negotiating channel for high-ranking trade officials of the two countries.

In 2004, the TIFA talks were elevated to a meeting led by officials at the deputy minister level. The most recent round of the talks was presided over by Taiwan's Vice Economics Minister Wang Mei-hua (???) and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Robert Holleyman.

The TIFA meeting, first held in 1995, took place in Taipei and Washington D.C. on a rotating basis in 1997, 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2007 before a five-year gap from 2008 and 2012 due to disputes over imports of U.S. beef to Taiwan.

The meeting was resumed in 2013 after Taiwan opened its doors to the import of beef containing residues of ractopamine, a feed additive that promotes leanness in animals raised for their meat but is banned in Taiwan and many other countries because of safety concerns.

The talks have been held each year since then.

Over the past two decades, issues brought up at the Taiwan-U.S. trade talks have included Taiwan's World Trade Organization membership and Taiwan's bids for a free trade agreement with the U.S. and for its participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel