U.S. and Taiwanese officials announced last month that the two will resume suspended free trade talks as early as this year. In an e-mail interview, Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, discusses the current state of U.S.-Taiwan trade relations.
WPR: What have been the obstacles holding up this deal?
Rupert Hammond-Chambers: Talks on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between the U.S. and Taiwan had been on hold for three years prior to the Sept. 29 announcement. The impasse was primarily due to disagreements over U.S. beef exports. It was the second time in a decade that U.S. trade negotiators suspended the bilateral trade dialogue over one specific issue, the other being over intellectual property rights (IPR) in 2003-2005. The U.S. has no track record of similarly suspending economic talks with major trading partners for such extended periods of time -- it is a situation unique to Taiwan.
In addition to the disagreements over beef, the talks were held up by the challenging political environment in both Washington and Taipei. Both sides have demonstrated a lack of interest in nurturing their bilateral relationship,and have spent no energy on doing so. Instead, they have both been distracted by trying to expand their relationships with China.