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Taiwan-U.S. trade talks touch on supply chains, vaccine production

ROC Central News Agency

06/30/2021 11:15 PM

Taipei, June 30 (CNA) Taiwan and the United States held bilateral trade talks Wednesday on issues that included the strengthening of supply chains, market access for U.S. pork producers, and the possibility of Taiwanese companies serving as authorized manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines.

The talks, held virtually under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) mechanism after a five-year hiatus, were led by Taiwan Deputy Trade Representative Yang Jen-ni (楊珍妮) and Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Terry McCartin.

During the negotiations, Taiwan said it hoped the talks would eventually lead to a bilateral free trade agreement, Trade Representative John Deng (鄧振中) said at a press conference after the meeting.

He said the two sides agreed to convene TIFA working group meetings on agriculture, intellectual property and other interests, which Taiwan hopes will become a regular aspect of the bilateral relationship.

The U.S., meanwhile, said Wednesday's discussions focused on international cooperation in venues such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, and on joint efforts to enhance supply chain resilience and security.

The two sides are committed to working together to address "outstanding trade concerns," including U.S. beef and pork producers' access to the Taiwan market, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Trade Representative Office (USTR).

The USTR apparently was referring to the controversial issue of Taiwan allowing imports of meat containing the livestock drug ractopamine, which is widely used in the U.S.

At the start of this year, Taiwan's government eased its longstanding ban on residues of the drug in imported pork, in an effort to draw the U.S. back into trade negotiations.

Amid controversy in Taiwan over the decision, a national referendum will be held Aug. 28 on whether the ban should be reinstated, which may complicate the government's goal of reaching a trade agreement with the U.S.

Other trade concerns raised by the U.S. included issues such as copyright legislation, digital piracy, financial services, and investment and regulatory transparency, the USTR said.

Yang said the discussions Wednesday also included the possibility of increasing COVID-19 vaccine supplies through technology sharing or licensing agreements with Taiwanese companies.

The U.S. responded positively to the proposal by Taiwan and agreed to hold further discussions on the issue, according to Deputy Health Minister Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元).

The two sides also reached an agreement on simplifying medical device approval procedures, so people can obtain necessary medical equipment more quickly, Yang said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Deputy Economics Minister Chen Chern-chyi (陳正祺) said that during the TIFA meeting, his ministry raised concerns about the steel tariffs imposed by the U.S. and asked that they be removed for Taiwan products.

Chen was referring to the U.S.' additional 25 percent tariff on steel imports, which was imposed on almost all countries in 2018, after then U.S. President Donald Trump signed an order under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, citing national security concerns. Only a handful of countries were granted exemptions from the duties.

Earlier Wednesday, the Taiwan Steel and Iron Industries Association issued a statement, urging the government to negotiate with the U.S. on lower tariffs for Taiwanese steel products.

The U.S. tariffs have had "a great impact" on Taiwan's steel manufacturers, and steel shipments from Taiwan to the U.S. have been decreasing annually, the association said.

The TIFA platform was created in 1994 to advance trade and investment interests between Taiwan and the U.S.

Wednesday marked the 11th time that two sides held talks under the platform and the first time since 2016.

(By Chung Yu-chun, Liang Pei-chih, Lai Yu-chen and Matthew Mazzetta)

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