DPP reiterates stance on U.S. pork imports amid new criticism

The Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP's) stance on imports of pork from the United States containing a leanness-enhancing drug has been consistent, and it is too early to decide on the issue, party spokesman Yang Chia-liang said Sunday.

The DPP and its chairwoman, President-elect Tsai Ing-wen, have been clear about the issue of whether to lift the existing ban on imports of pork containing traces of ractopamine, Yang said.

The core of the issue is to properly handle concerns about the safety of such pork imports and to reduce their impact on the domestic pig farming industry, he said in response to remarks by Vice President Wu Den-yih, who will leave office when Tsai is sworn in May 20.

Speaking with reporters on Sunday morning, Wu said there were rumors that Tsai promised to lift the ban when she visited the U.S. as the DPP's presidential candidate in June 2015.

"You must all have heard about them. Now the truth has come out," Wu said.

Yang called Wu's accusation "false" and said it was too early to say if the ban would be lifted even before talks on the issue begin.

The incoming DPP administration will fully discuss the issue with the domestic pig raising sector as well as consumer and civic groups when pushing Taiwan's participation in the U.S.-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership. he added.

The DPP will seek to ensure food safety, reduce the impact of imports on the pig farming industry, and work in line with international rules, he said.

Yang's party had steadfastly supported a policy of "zero tolerance" of any traces of ractopamine in pork imports from the U.S. up until late in 2015 when Tsai said in a debate during the presidential campaign that Taiwan would refer to the policies of Japan and South Korea on pork with ractopamine.

Both of those countries allow imports of pork from the U.S. with traces of the leanness-enhancing substance.

The issue resurfaced after Agriculture Minister-designate Tsao Chi-hung said in an April 21 interview with the United Daily News that Taiwan cannot shut its doors to U.S. pork containing ractopamine forever in the face of globalization, confirming the party's about-face on the issue.

The U.S. has hinted that Taiwan must accept imports of pork with ractopamine for trade ties to be expanded.

Kurt Tong, principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, said during his visit to Taiwan in late March that "pork is certainly one of the important issues" in trade relations between the two countries.

The U.S. had previously insisted during President Ma Ying-jeou's first term from 2008 to 2012 that Taiwan's ban on imports of American beef containing ractopamine be lifted before trade ties could be advanced.

The DPP adamantly opposed lifting the ban until the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a United Nations body that sets food standards, voted 69-67 in July 2012 to allow ractopamine residues in pigs, cattle and turkeys.

Taiwan formally eased the ban on U.S. beef imports with traces of ractopamine in July 2012 soon after the Codex vote, leading to the resumption of talks under the Taiwan-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which had been suspended since 2007.

But both the DPP and the Ma government continued to support "zero tolerance" on pork imports, which the Tsai administration now seems willing to compromise on to further advance Taiwan's international trade interests.