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Taiwan expected to relax ban on U.S. beef with precautions

Taiwan expected to relax ban on U.S. beef with precautions

Taiwan is expected to re-open its doors soon to imports of U.S. bone-in beef, shredded beef, some beef offal and other beef products, after Vice Premier Eric Liluan Chu made a public promise yesterday that consumers' health will be safeguarded.
"No matter whether it is in my capacity as vice premier, or as chairman of the Consumer Protection Commission, I will not sacrifice consumers' rights and benefits," Chu said.
Chu made the promise while answering questions from Legislator Hou Tsai-feng of the ruling Kuomintang at the Legislative Yuan, who expressed concern after President Ma Ying-jeou said his administration had come close to a consensus with the United States on the beef issue.
It means the country is coming close to relaxing restrictions against imports of the controversial beef products from the U.S., which reported its first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) - also called mad cow disease - in 2003, prompting its major Asian trade partners, including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, to reject all its beef products.
Taiwan partially lifted the ban in April 2005 to allow imports of de-boned beef from cattle under 30 months old, but it reimposed the ban two months later when a second BSE case was discovered in the U.S.
In 2006, Taiwan once again agreed to allow U.S. beef imports, but only boneless beef from cattle under 30 months old, produced by certified slaughterhouses and without any high-risk parts such as brains, skulls, eyes, spinal nerve roots, tonsils and small intestines.
Over the past year, the U.S. has never stopped trying to persuade Taiwan to open its doors more widely to its beef products, without regard for the safety concerns of local consumers.
At the Legislative Yuan, the vice premier said that the scale of Taiwan's relaxation of restrictions against U.S. beef imports will not be larger than those of South Korea, which he said imposes the most strict safety standards on U.S. beef among all the world's importers.
Chu said, however, that "if the restrictions are too tight, they might harm the bilateral economic and trade relations and the trust (between Taiwan and the U.S.) "
The government will demand that retailers sell U.S. beef in special sections to allow consumers to decide whether to purchase it or not, he added.
A day earlier, Ma told a visiting delegation of the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, headed by Chairman Edwin J. Feulner, that Taiwan and the U.S. have come close to a consensus on the beef issue.
Ma expressed hope that the problem will be resolved in "the foreseeable future."
Meanwhile, Minister of Health Yaung Chih-liang said imports will be restricted to bone-in and boneless beef without high-risk parts and from cattle aged under 30 months.
Asked when the restrictions will be relaxed, Yaung said "it should be near."