The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) dismissed speculation that Taiwan’s admission into the US’ visa-waiver program would be linked to concessions on easing restrictions on imports of US beef.
“They are two different issues, and there is no question of one being traded for the other,” a ranking economics official said.
The official said that the US holds the same view, and asked people not to link the two issues.
The official was responding to media reports on Friday saying the US was hinting that without progress on the beef issue, Taiwan would not be given visa-waiver status.
The US has pressed Taiwan to lift its ban on beef containing ractopamine, a lean meat-enhancing drug that had been found in some shipments of beef from the US that were subsequently denied entry into Taiwan.
Taiwan bans the use of the drug, although the US and some other countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand accept certain amounts of residue of the drug in beef.
The Council of Agriculture (COA) said domestic opinion on whether to set a standard for a permissible level of the drug is divided.
“We have to see the decision of a Codex Alimentarius Commission [CAC] meeting in July,” the official said.
The official said that among commission members, the EU and China are opposed to the setting of an international standard that would allow ractopamine residue in beef.
“There is a possibility that a consensus could be reached at July’s meeting, but it will be quite difficult,” the official said.
Taiwan, as a WTO member, signed an agreement to accept food safety standards set by the CAC, which did not set an allowable level for ractopamine residue last year, the official said.
If the commission stipulates an acceptable maximum level of ractopamine, then Taiwan will have to accept it, the COA official said.
The dispute over beef has caused a suspension of trade talks between Taiwan and the US under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
The TIFA, signed in September 1994, provides an official framework for Taiwan-US dialogue on trade and economic issues in the absence of diplomatic ties.
Taiwan and the US have not held any TIFA talks since 2007, mainly because of controversy over beef imports from the US because of reported cases there of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.
The talks, originally scheduled to resume early last year, were further delayed after Taiwan found ractopamine in beef products early that year and blocked their entry.
Meanwhile, an official with the Department of Health said on Friday that he was not aware of reports of a trade-off.
Food and Drug Administration Director General Kang Jaw-jou (康照洲) said the COA is in charge of animal drugs.
“If it decides itself or through coordination with other agencies to decide to lift the ban, the Food and Drug Administration will follow through on the decision,” Kang said.