United Daily News: TIFA talks will be new Cabinet's first test

Taiwan will soon resume talks with the United States under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). This will pose the first real test for the new Cabinet that will be sworn in Feb. 18. Taipei considers the TIFA talks a stepping stone toward a Taiwan-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) and Taiwan's membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But Taiwan's access to an FTA and the TPP will depend on whether it can remove the existing trade barriers with the United States. One of the most controversial and ticklish trade issues is whether to open Taiwan's market to U.S. pork containing residues of the livestock leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine. In handling the trade dispute over ractopamine residues in beef, Taiwan last year adopted a maximum allowable level of the drug in beef imports, in accordance with standards set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. In fact, the Codex standards also cover pork and poultry. With domestic beef production accounting for only 7 percent of local consumption, opening Taiwan's market to U.S. beef imports has had little effect on local beef cattle farmers. Pork, however, is a different matter because 90 percent of the pork on the Taiwan market is currently supplied by local farmers. Furthermore, the price of U.S. pork is much lower than the domestic products. Taiwan may seek to delay or negotiate the pork issue with the United States, but it is most important for Taiwan to enhance the quality and marketing of domestic pork. At the end of the day, Taiwan will probably have to open its market to U.S. pork containing ractopamine residues. The only way to ensure the long-term development of the local pork industry is to sharpen its competitiveness. (Editorial abstract -- Feb. 6, 2013) (By Y.F. Low)