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Taiwan, US hold trade talks in Taipei, discuss agricultural products and forced labour

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Taiwan’s government expressed hope that the US will open its market to Taiwanese mangoes and pineapples, among other agricultural products during the trade talks between the US and Taiwan, Central News Agency (CNA) reported.

John Deng, head of the Cabinet’s Office of Trade Negotiations, said that the issue of forced labour was also discussed during the talks as the US urged Taiwan to effectively stop such practices in its supply chains.

While addressing a press conference, John Deng said that Taiwan’s trade representatives during the trade talks with the US “expressed hope for an expedited and transparent approval process” for the country’s applications to export pineapples and mangoes.

Deng said that the other agricultural products that Taiwan hopes to sell to the US market include sausages and other processed meat. The trade talks between US and Taiwan were held in Taipei from April 29 to May 3.

John Deng, who also serves as the Cabinet’s Minister without Portfolio, acknowledged that the US side was not able to provide a timeline on the matter, according to a CNA report.

He noted that it took Taiwan 10 years to receive approval from the US for Taiwanese guava and added that “we do not want the same thing to happen to pineapples and mangoes.”

John Deng made the remarks shortly after Taiwan and the US completed the five-day trade talks under the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade, focusing on agriculture, labour and the environment sectors.

The talks between the two nations came after the US and Taiwan signed an initial agreement under the initiative in June 2023, covering customs administration and trade facilitation, good regulatory practices, domestic regulation of services, anti-corruption, and small and medium-sized enterprises, according to Central News Agency (CNA) report.

Deng said that the issue of forced labour was also discussed during the talks. Speaking at the press conference, Yang Jen-ni, who led the Taiwanese side during the talks, said that the US and Taiwan spent quite some time discussing what constitutes forced labour and how to prevent such practices.

John Deng further said that Taiwan indicated readiness to address the issue of forced labour, the country currently does not have mechanisms, legal tools and professionals to stop the practice, CNA reported.

He noted that existing laws are “insufficient” and need amendments or even new legislation and added, “But I believe there is a consensus on this issue in Taiwan.”

Assistant US Trade Representative (USTR) for China, Mongolia and Taiwan Affairs Terry McCartin led the US delegation for talks, according to the office of the USTR.

Before the beginning of the talks between the US and Taiwan, Yang Jen-ni on April 29 said that the latest round of negotiations would focus on issues concerning labour, environmental protection and agriculture, Central News Agency reported.

Speaking to reporters, Yang said these topics were more complex compared to those covered in the previous round of talks because both countries have different legal frameworks and regulations relating to them.

“That is why we need to talk face to face, to get an understanding of our differences,” she said.

This line of questioning came as reporters spotted Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) Director-General Wu Shou-mei at OTN on Monday morning, Central News Agency Taiwan reported.

She said that the OTN has prepared Taiwan’s world-famous bubble milk tea and several Taiwanese specialities, including pineapples, guavas, and passion fruit, to welcome the visiting American delegation.

Asked if the agricultural products had been selected as part of a push to get wider access to the US market, Yang said that is her goal, without expanding what exact products were in focus.