WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States will wait to see how Taiwan implements the lifting of a ban on U.S. beef imports before deciding whether to resume trade talks, a senior official said Wednesday.
Two weeks ago Taiwan's legislature passed a bill allowing Taiwanese to import U.S. beef containing minimal traces of ractopamine, a feed additive for creating lean meat.
The ban was the main obstruction to resumption of talks on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement that were suspended in 2007.
Taiwan hopes talks could pave the way for a free trade pact with Washington, although such a step could anger China, which regards self-governing Taiwan as part of its territory.
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said Wednesday that lifting the beef ban was positive.
"We will have to see how things play out in the next few months before making any decision" on the trade and investment agreement, he told a seminar on U.S. trade policy in the Asia-Pacific.
Taiwan's parliament and farmers had opposed lifting the ban.
Newly re-elected President Ma Ying-jeou, whose inking of a trade pact with Beijing in 2010 helped calm decades of tension across the Taiwan Strait, is also seeking to strengthen ties with the U.S.
Ma has said Taiwan eventually wants to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact that the U.S. is negotiating with eight other nations. The Obama administration views the pact as the central component of its strategy to expand American trade relations with a region that already accounts for 60 percent of U.S. goods exports.
Marantis dismissed suggestions that the pact is intended to exclude China. He said any country in the region would be welcome to join if they could meet its standards.
"The same applies to Taiwan," Marantis said. "It's for Taiwan to be able to convince both the U.S. and the other partners that Taiwan is a reliable trading partner and is able to meet the high standards."
The U.S. in November 2009 joined the negotiations on the pact that also include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. It aims to reduce tariffs and other trade barriers.
Mexico and Canada are set to join the negotiations later this year, and Japan has expressed interest in future participation.