The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday said it would respect an interministerial consensus on whether Taiwan should allow imports of US pork containing ractopamine and certain US beef products, after the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (AmCham) urged the two nations to handle their disagreements in a more practical way.
AmCham, which released its annual white paper on Tuesday, again urged the US government to begin preliminary discussions for launching bilateral trade agreement negotiations and resolve their differences over Taipei’s restrictions on US pork and beef imports by adopting a more practical strategy.
The ministry lauded the chamber’s advice about approaching the issue pragmatically and starting talks on a free-trade agreement, ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) told a news briefing in Taipei.
Regarding the issue of US pork and beef import restrictions, the ministry respects the professional expertise of the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Council of Agriculture (COA) and would seek a consensus among relevant authorities, she said.
Decisions would be made carefully under the principles of safeguarding the health of Taiwanese and the development of local industries, as well as in line with international food safety and trade standards, she added.
Taiwan was the US’ 10th-largest trading partner last year, while the US was Taiwan’s second-largest trading partner, she said.
The two nations have continued to deepen ties through annual events such as the “Taiwan-US Digital Economy Forum,” the “Select USA Investment Summit” and agricultural missions, she said.
“The government will continue to promote bilateral economic and trade agreements, building on the close relations between Taiwan and the US,” she added.
The COA on Wednesday said there had been no official contact between the two sides regarding the issue of US pork and beef imports.
National Development Council Minister Kung Ming-hsin (龔明鑫) said the council would keep communicating with the US while taking advice from stakeholders.
The issue of US pork and beef imports should not be politicized, but should focus on how such imports would affect food safety and the pig farming industry in Taiwan, National Taiwan University emeritus professor of veterinary studies Lai Shiow-suey (賴秀穗) said.
Even if the government lifts the ban on US pork containing ractopamine, the volume of imports is likely to be limited, as there are already plenty of US beef and pork not containing ractopamine on the market, Lai said.
However, if the government were to remove the ban, it is important to put clear labels on pork containing ractopamine to keep customers informed, she added.
COA data showed that imports of US pork and beef products last year hit five-year highs, with the US accounting for 13.1 percent of the nation’s total pork imports and 48.4 percent of total beef imports.
Taiwan’s self-sufficiency rates for pork and beef products last year were about 90 percent and 10 percent respectively, the data showed.
US beef exports to Taiwan are limited to cuts derived from cattle less than 30 months of age, with parts identified as specified risk materials excluded and a cap set for residue levels of ractopamine, the Department of Animal Industry said.
US pork containing ractopamine is banned from entering Taiwan, it added.
According to COA Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine director-general Tu Wen-jane (杜文珍), Taiwan currently allows imports of pork products from only 12 countries, as it later banned pork imports from Italy and Belgium due to African swine fever outbreaks, and from Japan, due to its swine fever outbreak.
Additional reporting by Chien Hui-ju
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