Thu, Jul 05, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Turning beef issue into opportunity

By Peng Tso-kwei 彭作奎

In other words, once Taiwan has got a ticket to a TIFA by allowing imports of US beef that contains ractopamine, Taiwanese agriculture will face pressure to liberalize completely.

So, when signing trade agreements, the government should consider the welfare of farmers and the agricultural industry. It should provide more agricultural subsidies, safeguards and complementary measures, as it did when Taiwan joined the WTO. In addition, steps must be taken to make producers more competitive. Even if Taiwan could get out of allowing imports of US beef containing ractopamine, it would not be able to avoid demands from future FTAs with other countries, as well as from the existing Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China. Upgrading the entire structure of Taiwan’s agricultural production is an unavoidable task.

To ensure that pork produced in Taiwan is safe to eat and to inspire consumer confidence, the government should persuade local livestock producers not to use ractopamine and encourage them to provide high-quality meat products that can be differentiated from ractopamine-treated imported meat.

Then consumers will have a choice. That would turn a crisis into an opportunity by establishing an image of Taiwanese livestock products as being healthy and of fine quality.

Doing that and building up consumer awareness are good ways to increase demand for local meat products and reduce meat imports.

Peng Tso-kwei is a chair professor at Asia University and a former minister of agriculture.

Translated by Julian Clegg

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