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.
SIXTEEN LOCAL: Three COVID-19 infections are linked to a cluster at a gambling house in Yilan County, 10 to a case in New Taipei City and three had unclear sources The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday urged people to increase vigilance and thoroughly practice preventive measures against COVID-19 as it reported 16 locally transmitted cases of the disease. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that 21 cases were confirmed in Taiwan yesterday: 16 local cases, four imported cases and one case undetermined. The locally transmitted cases are three linked to a cluster of infections at a gambling house in Yilan County, 10 associated with a previous case in New Taipei City and three with unclear sources of infection. The CECC on Tuesday reported a cluster
ENFORCING CAUTION: Certain entertainment facilities are to close nationwide to prevent people traveling there from high-risk areas in the north, the center said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday raised the COVID-19 alert for Taipei and New Taipei City to level 3 in light of surging cases in the two cities. The enhanced disease prevention measures for level 3 are to be implemented until May 28, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, told a morning news conference at the Executive Yuan in Taipei. With 180 locally transmitted cases confirmed yesterday, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that the government must take immediate action to protect the public, referring to measures stipulated in the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法). Other counties
TRACING TROUBLE: An infected man who had said that all his children were abroad was found to have a daughter in Kaohsiung who tested positive, the center said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported a new daily record of 29 local COVID-19 cases, including seven cases with unknown sources of infection. Of the 29 cases, 16 are linked to tea houses in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華), Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, told a news briefing in Taipei. The 16 are tea house workers or visitors, or their contacts, the CECC said. Workers and visitors to the establishments have frequent interpersonal contact, but few protective measures against the COVID-19 pandemic are in place, Chen said, urging those who have been exposed or have
GRID PROBLEM: A Taipower spokesman said that the blackouts were not due to usage exceeding supply, nor were they because of a problem at the Singda plant There were rolling blackouts across Taiwan yesterday due to a grid malfunction at the Singda Power Plant (興達電廠) in Kaohsiung’s Yongan District (永安), while Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) said that it was working “as hard as possible to resolve the issue as soon as possible.” At 2:37pm, a malfunction at an ultra-high-voltage substation in Kaohsiung’s Lujhu District (路竹) triggered four generators at the Singda plant to go offline, cutting power output by 2.2 million kilowatts and prompting Taipower to initiate rolling blackouts nationwide as it worked on the problem. Taipower spokesman Chang Ting-shu (張廷抒) told a news conference in Taipei that