A trade report released by the US days before the start of bilateral trade talks with Taiwan outlined US concerns over Taiwanese regulations and how they might affect US pork exports to the nation.
The report, released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative on Friday, lays out Washington’s trade policy agenda for this year.
It said that Taiwan has not established maximum residue levels (MRLs) for the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine in pork and as a result, “the restrictions continue to disrupt primarily US exports of pork to Taiwan.”
“The United States continues to press Taiwan to address a number of US concerns regarding Taiwan’s sanitary and phytosanitary measures,” the report said, adding that the use of ractopamine is approved in the US and other countries.
It is banned in more than 100 countries.
A total ban on US pork imports containing ractopamine residues remains despite the relaxation of the same ban on beef imports.
In 2007, Taiwan concluded that the additive did not pose health risks after conducting an assessment and notified the WTO of its intention to establish an MRL for ractopamine in beef and pork, the report added.
The Taiwanese authorities did not follow the approach taken by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a global food safety body, on ractopamine, the report added.
The report has sparked concerns as to whether the nation will relax regulations on US pork containing ractopamine residues.
Addressing these concerns, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said in a statement on Saturday that the government has clarified its policy of having separate rules for beef and pork imports and has explained its stance to US officials.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) has also pledged that Taiwan will not allow imports of US pork containing ractopamine while he is in office, it added.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated the government’s policy on US pork imports and said Washington fully understands Taipei’s stance.
Asked about the US pork debate, former Democratic Progressive Party chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) urged the government to elaborate further on its pork import policy and explain what measures it would take in response to “international” pressure.
Last year, Taiwan relaxed the ban on US beef imports containing traces of ractopamine, paving the way for a resumption of bilateral talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
The next round of TIFA talks are scheduled to take place in Taipei on Monday and Tuesday next week.
Taiwan now allows imports of US beef containing ractopamine and has adopted an MRL of 10 parts per billion, in accordance with standards set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
The report described the establishment of an MRL for ractopamine in beef as “an important step forward in rebuilding confidence in Taiwan as a reliable trading partner.”
Meanwhile, the report raised the issue of an amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) that was approved by the legislature in 2010, which it said effectively bans all imports of ground beef and certain offal from the US and thus is inconsistent with Taiwan’s obligations under a trade protocol signed between the two countries in 2009.
The US “will continue to press Taiwan to act in a manner consistent with science, as well as its obligations under the bilateral protocol, and to refrain from taking measures that overburden trade in beef and beef products,” it added.