Taiwan lifts US pork, beef import restrictions

Ending a long-festering dispute between the two nations, Taiwan said that it has agreed to lift restrictions of United States pork and beef fed with ractopamine, a feed additive that increase leanness. The move could ease the way to a free-trade agreement with the U.S., something Taiwan’s government has long sought.

In an Aug. 27 press conference, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen said, “This [decision] is based on our country’s economic interests and [its] overall strategic development goals.”

The restrictions on U.S. beef and pork imports were major impediments to such a deal. Ending Taiwan’s restrictions on U.S. pork imports has been a top goal of the National Pork Producers Association for 15 years. Taiwan’s pork producers, a powerful domestic interest group, had long supported a zero-tolerance ractopamine policy. Ractopamine has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and by the food-safety agencies in 24 countries. The U.N.’s Codex Alimentarius, which sets international standards for food products, approved a maximum residue limit for ractopamine, which is met by U.S. pork.

Taiwan also further lifted restrictions of ractopamine in beef. U.S. beef exports to Taiwan were worth about $550 million in 2018, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Taiwan had been importing some U.S. beef since it slightly eased ractopamine standards for imported beef in 2012.

According to the Census Bureau, the U.S. exported about $15 billion worth of goods to Taiwan in June 2020 and imported $27.6 billion, for a trade deficit of about $12.5 billion. In 2019, we imported $53.25 billion worth of goods to Taiwan and imported $31.2 billion worth. Taiwan is the U.S.’s 11th largest trading partner, according to the Office of the Unites States Trade Representative.

The U.S. States Department said in a statement, “We welcome President Tsai Ing-Wen’s Aug. 28 statement that Taiwan will move quickly to lift restrictions on imports of U.S. pork and beef. We look forward to the timely implementation of these actions, which will provide greater access for U.S. farmers to one of east Asia’s most vibrant markets, and for Taiwan consumers to high-quality U.S. agricultural products. President Tsai’s vision and leadership in removing these long-standing barriers open the door to greater economic and trade cooperation between the United States and Taiwan.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, “We welcome Taiwan’s announcement to lift import restrictions on U.S. beef and pork. These barriers to trade have been a longstanding concern for U.S. exporters, and their removal is an important step… The lifting of these restrictions will provide U.S. farmers and ranchers much needed opportunities and is a victory for supporters of trade liberalization in both economies.”

In a sign of the increased tensions between the U.S. and mainland China, the Chinese government responded to news of the deal by calling for the U.S. to cease its unofficial contacts with Taiwan, which China considers an integral part of its territory. “We called on the U.S. to … stop official interaction with Taiwan in all forms,” said Hua Chunying, spokeswoman of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sept. 1.

David Murray can be reached at [email protected].