President Ma Ying-jeou on Friday hailed a recent vote by the Codex Alimentarius Commission that backed the safety of a certain amount of ractopamine residue in beef and pork.
The vote by the UN food safety regulator lends support to the government’s decision to conditionally ease the ban on US beef imports containing the feed additive, Ma said at a meeting with new Guatemalan Ambassador to Taiwan Arturo Duarte Ortiz, from whom he accepted a letter of credence.
It is a “positive message for the Republic of China,” and helps show the government has been right on its policy of conditionally easing the ban on US beef on the principles of “specifying a safe level of ractopamine, issuing separate permits for beef and pork imports, mandating the labeling of beef imports and excluding imports of beef organs,” the president said.
Member states of the commission voted 69-67 at a meeting in Rome, Italy Thursday that it is safe to allow a maximum level of 10 parts per billion of ractopamine in cattle and pork tissues, including muscle, liver and kidney.
Saying the vote was “very helpful for Taiwan to resume trade talks with the United States,” Ma underlined that ractopamine traces will only be allowed in imported US beef, not domestic livestock products.
The government will be responsible for the health of anybody who falls sick after eating US beef, and will also seek compensation from the relevant businesses and immediately halt the import of US beef, Ma added.
In light of the Codex vote, Ma urged opposition parties and legislators to focus on the importance of Taiwan’s further development and stop their opposition to his administration’s proposals to revise the Act Governing Food Sanitation to allow the import of US beef containing traces of the leanness-enhancing drug.
The president said his administration has been hoping that Taiwan’s doors to US beef imports will be opened further under the strict conditions, so that stalled Taiwan-US trade talks can be resumed and Taiwan’s chances of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a Pacific Rim trade bloc, will be improved.
Taiwan has already signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China, its largest trade partner, Ma said, adding the country has also sealed an investment deal with Japan, its second-largest trade partner.
However, Taiwan’s trade links with its third-largest trade partner – the United States – have been stalled for five years because of the beef issue, he said.
Now there’s a turning point, Ma said, referring to a possible chance to revive the trade talks thanks to Codex vote.
The US has on many occasions hinted that as long as Taiwan does not resolve the US beef controversy, it will not restart the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks.
Ma’s government has been frustrated in pushing through legislation on amendments to the food sanitation act due to opposition parties insisting on zero tolerance toward ractopamine.
The Legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee dealt a blow to the government when it adopted on May 7 an amendment proposed by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party that called for the zero tolerance policy.
The Legislature is set to vote on the issue during an extraordinary session July 25-27.
During the meeting with Ortiz, Ma also talked about Taiwan’s active pursuit of free trade links with trade partners in recent years.
Such efforts won the best feedback in Central America, he said, noting that Guatemala is one of the few countries that has forged a free trade deal with Taiwan.-By Kelven Huang and Elisabeth Hsu