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Meat Controversy: Ma says US beef policy will help boost trade relations

Taipei Times, Taiwan

Meat Controversy: Ma says US beef policy will help boost trade relations

By Mo Yan-chih / Staff Reporter

22 March 2012

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said he was concerned about the nation’s economic development after a free-trade agreement (FTA) between South Korea and the US came into force last week, adding that the government’s plan to partially lift a ban on US beef imports would help facilitate trade relations with other countries.

Defending the government’s policy on US beef containing ractopamine, an animal feed additive, Ma said that the US beef issue also involved matters of national interest other than the public’s health, such as the economy and trade, adding that the pressure was now on Taipei to address the issue to facilitate bilateral talks with the US over the stalled Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

“Resuming the negotiations through the TIFA and signing FTAs or economic pacts with the US and other countries is a pressing matter for Taiwan because we need to avoid being marginalized in regional economic integration,” Ma told the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee.

The FTA between South Korea and the US took effect last Thursday, just as Taipei stepped up efforts to defend its US beef policy by linking the issue to the nation’s economic development with other countries and stressing the urgency of resolving the beef issue.

The KMT’s Central Standing Committee invited Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) and Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Sheng-chung (林聖忠) to report on the impact of the US-South Korea FTA on the nation’s economy.

Yang and Lin said the FTA would affect Taiwanese exports to the US and warned that Taiwan should resume negotiations with the US on the TIFA and use the economic platform to seek an FTA with the US as a long-term goal.

The president also criticized the previous Democratic Progressive Party administration for notifying the WTO in August 2007 that it was considering easing the ban on the use of the feed additives in meat products and said his administration aimed to fulfill the promise as a responsible government.

“We need to solve the US beef issue to facilitate economic development. It’s also about the nation’s credibility in the international community ... However, my administration will not sacrifice the public’s health in return for any economic interests. Public health will remain our top priority when handling the issue,” Ma said.