AIT import remarks stir debate

CLEAR CUT::The institute’s chairman said that every nation’s policy on the import of food should be based on international food standards and scientific research

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Feb 03, 2013 - Page 3

American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt’s remarks on Friday urging the opening of the Taiwanese market to US pork products containing residues of the feed additive ractopamine prompted much discussion in Taipei yesterday.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said the issue would top the agenda for the incoming Cabinet led by Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), as a new round of negotiations under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) platform is scheduled to be held by the end of next month.

“It’s going to be a challenge for the Jiang Cabinet,” because lawmakers across party lines were all opposed to lifting the ban on pork imports containing ractopamine, while the US side has been resolute in bringing up the issue, Lai said.

Meanwhile, KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said: “We have to make the US understand our reasoning to block US pork containing ractopamine, otherwise we won’t be able to continue to reject the products. We need US support for developing defense capabilities and for joining international organizations.”

Bilateral negotiations under the TIFA have been suspended by the US since 2007 in response to Taiwan’s import prohibitions of US beef firstly due to concerns over mad cow disease and then the use of ractopamine as a muscle growth agent.

To remove what the US viewed as a barrier to resuming TIFA talks, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration in July last year managed to earn support in the legislature to lift the ban on beef containing a permissible level of ractopamine residues, a policy based on four principles, one of which was that pork from pigs fed ractopamine remained on the banned list.

The policy that applies different import rules to beef and pork products was not in line with the food standards for the use of ractopamine in cattle and pigs set early that month by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international food standards body.

Taiwan is still under pressure to allow imports of US pork products containing ractopamine residues, despite remarks made by former AIT director William Stanton last March in an interview with the Central News Agency that “pork is not a problem.”

At a press round-table event on Friday, Burghardt, in response to repeated media queries on whether the pork issue would be among the US priorities for TIFA negotiation, said that he did not speculate on issues for TIFA negotiation, because both sides have yet to agree on the precise agenda.

Burghardt restated the US position that any country in the world, not only Taiwan, should base its import policy on pork containing ractopamine on international food safety standards and scientific study.

In response to Burghardt, Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) and Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Francis Liang (梁國新) both said yesterday that the government maintained its position to keep rules on ractopamine residue in beef and pork separate.