U.S. meat imports should not be precondition for better relations: Taiwan

USTR report mentions Taiwan ban on ractopamine meat

Hog farmers protesting against U.S. pork imports in 2016.

Hog farmers protesting against U.S. pork imports in 2016. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The import of pork and beef from the United States should not be a precondition for the improvement of relations with Washington, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Thursday after the publication of a report by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

The document named Taiwan’s ban on the import of U.S. pork containing residues of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine as a policy “not based upon science,” the Central News Agency reported.

MOFA responded Thursday by pointing out it had told the U.S. that the issue of pork and beef should not become a precondition for strengthening bilateral relations, but should be just one issue that could deepen the relationship.

MOFA said it would respect the professional opinions of the Ministry of Health and Welfare and of the Council of Agriculture about food safety and agricultural development. Safeguarding public health and the development of the local economy were equally important in reaching a consensus on such issues, according to MOFA.

Taiwan has a large hog farming sector which is adamantly opposed to the import of pork from the U.S.

When former President Ma Ying-jeou was re-elected to a second and final term in 2012, he advocated an end to the ban on the import of U.S. beef containing ractopamine residues, a push which caused his opinion poll ratings to show a steep decline from which he never really recovered.

The USTR 2018 Trade Policy Agenda and 2017 Annual Report said one of its main priorities in trade with Taiwan would be to remove the island’s trade barriers on pork and on certain beef products with ractopamine, CNA reported.

More than 60 percent of U.S. pigs have been fed the drug, even though it is completely banned in the European Union, China and Russia.