The reluctance of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to confront the sensitive issue of US pork imports containing residue of the livestock feed additive ractopamine underscores Ma’s leadership problems and risks further pitting Taiwanese against the US government, a former deputy representative to the US said yesterday.
In an interview with the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper), David Huang (黃偉峰), who serves as an associate researcher at Academia Sinica’s Institute for European and American Studies, made the comments on the Ma administration’s handling of the US pork issue, which was raised in the seventh Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) meeting on Sunday.
Huang said the US had been using the controversial issue of US pork imports to examine Taiwan’s adherence to its pledge to liberalize trade, which the Ma administration knew about, yet refuses to face squarely.
“However, when the Ma administration is forced to face up to the issue, it will most likely shirk its responsibilities and leave the political hot potato to the public, as it has done in its handling of the US beef controversy,” Huang said.
He added that the government’s handling of the two closely watched trade matters highlighted Ma’s leadership problems and had pitted the public against the US government.
Huang said that the issue of US beef and pork imports containing ractopamine were closely intertwined with the government’s promise to liberalize trade, with the former product being identified by US trade representatives as a decisive factor to the resumption of TIFA talks.
The talks had been stalled since 2007 because of a long-standing dispute over US beef products, including the government’s import ban on US meat products containing ractopamine residue.
The resumption of the talks are linked by many to the government’s amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) in July last year that adopted a maximum ractopamine residue level of 10 parts per million (ppm) in beef imports.
However, the amendment maintained the ban on imports of pork containing ractopamine and beef offal from the US.
Huang said the imports of US pork into Taiwan was bound to become a prerequisite for future Taiwan-US trade talks, such as potential taxation agreements, a free-trade agreement or if Taiwan seeks to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“By that time, the US would deem [the government’s import ban on] US pork and relevant trade regulations as barriers to trade between the US and Taiwan, which the latter must remove before starting talks on these agreements,” Huang said.
Saying that Taiwan is a nation highly reliant on exports, Huang called on the government to make increasing the nation’s global competitiveness a priority when considering issues pertaining to Taiwan-US trade relations.