The director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) denied yesterday that the US is bullying Taiwan on the issue of US beef imports.
AIT Director William Stanton made the remarks in the face of protests that Washington has been putting pressure on Taipei to allow imports of US beef containing residues of ractopamine, a leanness enhancer used by the US meat industry that is banned in many parts of the world, including Taiwan.
“America doesn’t bully,” Stanton said.
In a 45-minute interview with local media, Stanton said more than once that the US considers ractopamine to be a safe feed additive and he urged the Taiwanese authorities to review the current ban based on scientific findings and rational discussion.
A considerable number of studies have been done to prove ractopamine is a safe feed additive, he said, noting that millions of people have eaten meat with residues of ractopamine without falling sick.
“I think the whole debate has been a bit eschewed, frankly. All we say is, bring it back to science,” Stanton said.
Proposing a look at the problem from a historical perspective, he produced a notification submitted in 2007 by then-president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration to the WTO, saying that his government was going to allow ractopamine use in pigs and cattle.
“What happened was that pig farmers ... protested and the government backed down,” he said. “You have to understand the history of the issue to understand some of the frustrations of the US trade negotiators.”
Stanton said fears over health concerns and a negative impact on the domestic meat market are unfounded and not scientific. Citing statistics showing that the US on average consumes 98 percent of the pork it produces, Stanton said his country has no motive to stir up a disturbance in the local pork market.
Taiwan’s beef market is relatively small for the US, he added. He said Japan imported US$900 million of US beef, while South Korea imports US$600 million.
“The highest amount of beef we sold here was in 2010 and that was valued at about US$220 million,” he said.
“I think Taiwan needs in the future to diversify its markets,” Stanton said, adding that Taiwan’s international trade relations with the US could be hindered if the beef dispute remains unsolved.
“This kind of issue will be a stumbling block, not only with the US, but with winning free-trade agreements with other countries. So it’s in Taiwan’s own interest to open up its markets more,” Stanton said.
The US’ frustration, for example, can be seen in the long-stalled bilateral talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
Talks were brought to a halt in 2007 after Taiwan imposed a strict ban on ractopamine in 2006 and returned batches of US beef containing residues of ractopamine.