Taiwan should not lose sight of the big picture in its trade relations with the US, as US pork imports are only one of the many trade matters being discussed between the two sides, a US Department of State official said on Tuesday.
“We can talk about the pork issue in more detail, but we also want to make sure that we’re focused on the overall economic relationship, which is so key to people in both of our economies,” US principal deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton said in an interview.
Noting that Taiwan is the US’ ninth-largest trading partner and its seventh-largest market for agricultural products, Thornton said the two sides are discussing a wide range of issues under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
These issues, for instance, include increasing trade and encouraging Taiwanese investments in the US, she said.
What Taiwan and the US are discussing under the TIFA would also “be a kind of a stepping stone to things that would need to be done by Taiwan in order to qualify itself for entry into TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership],” Thornton added.
On the question of Taiwan’s ban on US pork that contains residues of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine, Thornton said Taiwan’s standards on meat imports would be one of the issues that would “come into play at some point” in bilateral talks.
The US stance is that “these kinds of standards should be based on scientific standards and things that can be shown and proven through experience and experimentation,” she said.
During President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) first term in office, the US pushed for the government to lift the ban on US beef containing ractopamine as a condition to restarting TIFA talks, which had been suspended since 2007.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) adamantly opposed lifting the ban until the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a UN body that sets food standards, voted in July 2012 to allow ractopamine residues in pork, beef and turkey.
Soon after the Codex vote, the government formally eased the ban on US beef imports containing traces of ractopamine, which led to the resumption of TIFA talks.
However, the Ma administration and the DPP have continued to support “zero tolerance” for ractopamine in pork imports, which became a subject of debate ahead of the Jan. 16 presidential and legislative elections.
The DPP and president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) have since said that there is no preset stance on the US pork issue, but they would handled it in line with international regulations and with the goals of ensuring food safety and reducing the impact on Taiwan’s pig farming industry.
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