Taiwan has neither broken any WTO rules nor breached any commitments by failing to go ahead with a plan to establish maximum residue levels for the livestock feed additive ractopamine, of which the organization was first notified in 2007, a WTO official said.
“The point of notifying the WTO about such measures is transparency and peer review, so that other governments know what measures are being taken and why, and to allow them to comment,” the official, who asked to remain anonymous in accordance with WTO staff rules, said in an e-mail reply to an enquiry from the Taipei Times on Friday.
As part of a plan to pressure Taiwan into lifting its ban on imports of US beef containing ractopamine residues, Washington has been urging Taiwan to honor WTO commitments made in 2007 by the then-Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government, which it said was based on a notification sent to the WTO on Aug. 16 of that year.
In defense of its plan to partially lift the ban, described by the US as a “stumbling block” in bilateral relations, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has adopted a similar position to that of the US, saying the issue is a problem caused by the DPP in 2007 and would render Taiwan a “unreliable trading partner” if the ban continued.
However, the view expressed by the WTO official on the policy reversal in 2007 explicitly contradicted that position.
According to WTO documents, the then-DPP government notified the WTO that Taiwan intended to adopt maximum residue levels for ractopamine for the muscle, fat, liver and kidney of cattle and pigs, in line with the draft maximum residue levels recommended by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, with a provisional proposed adoption date of Aug. 22, 2007.
Following domestic protest against lifting the ban, the DPP government submitted an addendum to the notification dated Sept. 5, 2007, to the WTO, saying the date on which the maximum residue levels would come into force “has been delayed until a time to be decided at a later date.”
Taiwan had the legal right to decide not to proceed with planned changes in food safety regulations, a decision of which the WTO was informed, and was not in violation of any rules for not implementing the notification, the official said.
The official explained the nature of notification measures used to require WTO members to implement transparency obligations under the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, also known as the SPS agreement.
The SPS agreement allows WTO members to set their own level of sanitary and phytosanitary protection in relation to quarantine and food safety, but also requires that countries make their rulemaking process transparent by notifying the WTO “well before the entry into force of relevant measures.”
The procedural step-by-step manual, a practical guide for governments to facilitate the implementation of transparency provisions in the SPS agreement, recommends that a standard time limit for comments on notification of at least 60 days be allowed before a measure is finalized for adoption.
Considering the nature of the notifying measures, a WTO notification is not the same as a WTO commitment, the official said.
Under the SPS agreement, countries are also required to make available the scientific basis for specific phytosanitary regulations to interested parties upon request.
“Since this is a notification about allowing ractopamine [but within set limits], by withdrawing its measure Chinese Taipei might find itself having to explain to other members why it is continuing with the ban,” the official said.
According to a WTO Trade Policy Review of Taiwan, Taipei informed the organization that the government was in ongoing consultations with a view to formulating a ractopamine management policy as various stakeholders hold different opinions and farmers particularly are strongly opposed to establishing maximum residue levels on ractopamine.
In response to concerns expressed about the issue at an SPS committee meeting in 2008, Taiwan has said that the use of ractopamine is forbidden by many WTO members and that the Codex Alimentarius Commission had also been unable to reach a final decision on MRLs for ractopamine, the trade policy review showed.
NOT BUYING IT: One of the goals of Beijing’s Cross-Strait Media People Summit was to draw mainstream media executives to discuss the ‘one country, two systems’ formula Taiwanese news media insist on press freedom and professionalism, and would never become a tool of China’s “united front” campaign, Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said yesterday, responding to media queries about the lack of Taiwanese media executives at the Cross-Strait Media People Summit in Beijing. Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Chairman Wang Huning (王滬寧) was reportedly furious that no Taiwanese media representatives attended a scheduled meeting with him on Thursday last week. “Beijing should take Taiwan’s determination to pursue freedom and democracy seriously. We also hope that it will not use vicious means to interfere with Taiwan’s development into a
IMMIGRATION REFORM: The legislative amendments aim to protect the rights of families to reunify, and to attract skilled professionals to stay and work in Taiwan Foreigners who are highly skilled professionals, top-prize winners in professional disciplines, investment immigration applicants or have made special contributions to Taiwan can soon apply for permanent residency on behalf of their spouses and minor or disabled children after the legislature approved amendments to the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法). The amendments, which were proposed by the Ministry of the Interior and approved by the Executive Yuan on Jan. 12, aim to attract foreign talent to Taiwan and encourage them to stay. They would take effect once they are signed by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文). The amendments involved changing 63 articles, making it the biggest
FIRST STEP: Business groups in Taiwan welcomed the deal, which does not include tariff reductions at this stage, as they called for the elimination of double taxation Taiwan and the US yesterday signed an initial agreement under the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade. The agreement was signed yesterday morning by Representative to the US Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) and American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Managing Director Ingrid Larson in Washington, the Office of Trade Negotiations in Taipei said. The ceremony was witnessed by Minister Without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中) and Deputy US Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi. Taiwan and the US started talks under the initiative in August last year, after Taipei was left out of the Washington-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. “The deal that will be signed tonight is not only very historic,
Beijing yesterday blamed US “provocation” for an incident last week in which a Chinese plane crossed in front of a US surveillance aircraft over the South China Sea. The incident came at a time of frayed ties between Washington and Beijing over issues including Taiwan and the shooting down of an alleged Chinese spy balloon that flew over the US this year. “The United States’ long-term and frequent sending of ships and planes to conduct close surveillance on China seriously harms China’s national sovereignty and security,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mao Ning (毛寧) said when asked about the latest incident. “This