The crux of the years-long stalemate over the resumption of high-level talks with the US still lies with consumers’ concerns about the potential health risks associated with a food additive, a problem that the US wished Taiwan could “take concrete actions” to address after the Jan. 14 election, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday.
In response to the US’concerns about the lack of adoption of a maximum residue limits (MRL) for ractopamine, which the US allows to be used as a growth promoter in animals, but which Taiwan bans, “we have been telling them that people are worried about food safety,” deputy director-general of the Department of North American Affairs Remus Chen (陳立國) said.
The US has “sympathized with” Taiwan’s government that it takes ongoing efforts to conduct careful risk communication to the public and it “has been very patient with the issue,” Chen told a press briefing in which he reviewed the department’s work over the year.
Bilateral ties with the US have stayed on a positive track, as evidenced by the arms package worth US$5.85 billion announced in September, visits by retired and serving senior officials and the nomination of Taiwan to the US Visa Waiver Program, among others, despite the lingering dispute over US beef sales, Chen said.
The US postponed the planned resumption of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement meetings this year after Taiwan barred US beef that contained traces of ractopamine.
This led to prolonging a suspension in talks since 2007, chiefly because of a conflict over a Taiwanese ban on US beef imports because of mad cow disease concerns.
In July, Taiwan decided not to revise its no-tolerance policy against the use of ractopamine after the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international body that implements UN food standards, again stalled a decision on MRLs for ractopamine.
The US has expressed its wish to see concrete action taken by Taiwan to address the beef issue after the Jan. 14 presidential and legislative elections.
This happened even as the ministry continued to explain to the US that to elevate the confidence of the Taiwanese public on the safety of US beef would “require joint efforts by both sides,” Chen said.
The ministry hopes that the US can participate in risk communication to help the ministry make the public understand that its safety standards are in line with Codex rules, he said.