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Pork, beef imports governed by global standards to help secure economic and trade future

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Following an announcement by President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday concerning Taiwan's international trade situation, the Executive Yuan held an afternoon press conference to confirm that Taiwan would follow international standards on the import of pork and beef. This move affirms the nation's intention to abide by international rules and regulations; at the same time, the government will redouble efforts to put to rest public health concerns and strengthen the competitiveness of the domestic livestock industry. Furthermore, this decision is based on national economic interests and consistent with Taiwan's overall strategic goals for the future, and helps make a more persuasive case for the country's participation in upcoming regional economic integration. Moreover, it represents an even greater shift toward enhanced ties between Taiwan and the U.S.

Executive Yuan Spokesperson Ting Yi-ming said that President Tsai's announcement came amid global trends toward emerging international standards that have prompted the gradual relaxation of meat product standards by neighboring countries, and is intended to capitalize on an unprecedented opportunity to expand international trade that will serve both Taiwan's national economic interests and overall strategic goals for the future. The government's decision on pork and beef imports from the U.S. is grounded on the principles of absolutely ensuring the health of citizens in accordance with international standards, as well as enhancing the competitiveness of local industry. Spokesperson Ting emphasized that while U.S. pork imports are not a new phenomenon, the popularity of locally produced meat has not faltered, and domestic pork currently enjoys a 90 percent market share, highlighting local producers' strong competitive position in Taiwan.

Minister of Agriculture Chen Chi-chung indicated that the import of U.S. pork and beef will be guided by scientific evidence, and meet all standards of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Codex Alimentarius. As in Japan and South Korea, rules and regulations governing ractopamine residue levels in U.S. pork and pork products will be revised and strict standards set, to take effect on January 1, 2021. Additionally, as the U.S. has been listed by the OIE as having "negligible risk" for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, restrictions on the import of beef from U.S. cattle aged 30 months or older will also be eased effective January 1, 2021.

Taiwan has succeeded in blocking the transmission of African swine fever and remains free of the disease, said Minister Chen, and in June was removed from the list of zones with foot and mouth disease, making possible pork exports to Macau, with an export application to Singapore underway. Additionally, exports of processed pork products are already approved to such territories as Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore. With approvals underway for exports to the U.S., as well, it's clear that Taiwan's pork industry is well positioned competitively.

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung said that in order to ensure the health and safety of the public, the government will follow existing evidence and establish safe levels of ractopamine residues in consideration of prevailing domestic culinary customs. Food product labeling will also be implemented to guarantee that consumers can make well-informed choices.

Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua said that Taiwan's economy is heavily reliant on external trade, and that the continuing expansion of international trade is necessary to maintaining the country's ongoing economic growth. Taiwan's difficulty in signing free-trade agreements puts the nation's enterprises at a competitive disadvantage internationally when faced with tariff barriers.

With the recent continual opening to imports of ractopamine-fed pork by trade competitors such as South Korea and Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership member Japan, Taiwan's commitment and ability to resolve this issue now may determine how readily it is able to enter into regional economic integration agreements and sign free-trade pacts with other countries in the future. Should Taiwan be able to overcome current issues over U.S. imports of pork and beef, it could offer a model path forward for the conclusion of free-trade agreements and regional economic integration pacts in the future.

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