Top Canadian diplomat urges end to beef ban

Staff writer, with CNA  / 

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 - Page 3

Canada’s top envoy to Taiwan has expressed the hope that Taipei will lift its ban on Canadian bone-in beef this year, a main topic on the agenda of bilateral trade talks in April.

“We have been working with Taiwan for some time to complete our beef [market] access,” Kathleen Mackay, who took over as executive director of the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei in September last year, said in a recent interview.

Although the beef issue is “moving along slowly,” she said she hopes the ban will be lifted this year.

Mackay’s remarks came after the government sent a delegation to Canada in September to inspect slaughterhouses and evaluate Canada’s request to allow imports of its bone-in beef.

Since Canada’s first case of mad cow disease in 2003, the North American country has made efforts to prove the safety of its beef, which is sold in most markets around the world, Mackay said, citing Japan and South Korea as examples.

“We are very comfortable with our food safety system and the beef that we are producing,” she said in her first exclusive interview with local media since taking up her position in Taiwan.

After Canada’s first outbreak of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Taiwan imposed a ban on beef from the country, but reopened its market to imports of boneless beef in 2007.

Asked about Canada’s request, the Food and Drug Administration of the Department of Health said it is still evaluating the matter and that cross-agency discussions and a review of Canadian beef must be carried out before a decision can be made.

Canadian beef imports to Taiwan declined from 2,680 tonnes in 2010 to 1,205 tonnes in 2011 and 386 tonnes last year, with its market share dropping from 2.6 percent to 1.3 percent to less than 1 percent respectively, the Canadian office said.

The beef issue is one of the topics that Canada is hoping to discuss during the annual Canada-Taiwan Economic Consultation, which is to be held in Ottawa in April, Mackay said. Other issues include investment promotion, an agreement on avoiding double taxation, and further cooperation in the science and technology sectors, she said.

On the possibility of signing a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Taiwan, Mackay said that this was not a top priority for the time being, adding that the issues of double taxation and an agreement to protect and promote foreign investment would have to be resolved first.

“At this point, I wouldn’t expect to see that [an FTA] immediately,” she said.