US tells Taiwan: Political will needed to join TPP

US tells Taiwan: Political will needed to join TPP
Charles H. Rivkin, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs of US Department of State, waves during the opening ceremony of the Computex trade show in Taipei on June 2, 2015.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Anyone interested in joining the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will have to meet high standards that require "political will" and "making tough decisions," a visiting senior US official said yesterday.

Speaking during a roundtable with local press yesterday, Charles H. Rivkin, the US assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, said that the TPP is the highest standard trade deal ever conceived.

The US appreciates Taiwan's interest in joining the TPP, he noted, but anyone interested in doing so will have to meet those standards.

"And sometimes that requires political will and making tough decisions," he noted.

It is in Taiwan and any other economy's best interests to understand the high standards of the TPP and to inspire to those standards.

"It is up to each economy to decide what needs to be done to meet those objectives and something for Taiwan's authorities to make some decisions on in that case," Rivkin said.

Asked if resolving issues surrounding the import of US meat products will speed up Taiwan's push to join the TPP, Rivkin said he would not focus on one particular issue because a lot of issues can be overcome if one day Taiwan were to be considered a member of the TPP.

But he also admitted that those very "high profile and important issues" need to be addressed.

"Resolving these longstanding trade irritants is a smart move for anybody," he said.

"We have been consistently pushing for open market access and for science to be the basis for making agricultural decisions," he noted, adding that the basis for any investment comes from "transparency, predictability and the rule of law."

Each of those categories is important and the US has discussed this with trading partners like Taiwan, he said.

TIFA Talks Could Be Held Before the End of This Year

During the same roundtable yesterday, Rivkin also confirmed that Taiwan and the US are trying to schedule the next round of bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks "before the end of this year."

Asked to explain the main reason for the delay of the annual talks this year, which usually take place in spring, he noted that one of the factors has been that the US is busy with the ongoing TPP negotiations.

"As you see, we have been very focused on TPP and a number of our trade-related matters, and the important thing is that both economies want to restart these talks, and we both targeted before the end of the year."

Rivkin, responsible for managing trade negotiations, investment treaties and other economic issues at the US State Department, arrived in Taiwan on Sunday. He is the highest-ranking US State Department official to visit Taiwan since his predecessor Jose Fernandez in 2012.

The US official yesterday said that this was his second visit to Taiwan but his first visit in an official capacity. He first visited Taiwan 35 years ago after college graduation as part of his trip around the world.

He said that he did not remember many things about Taiwan from his previous visit more than three decades ago, but "I do remember the warmth and hospitality of Taiwan people, he said."

Rivkin is scheduled to leave Taiwan today.

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