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U.S. beef row tests nation’s resolve to liberalize trade : minister

Focus Taiwan News, Taiwan

U.S. beef row tests nation’s resolve to liberalize trade : minister

30 March 2012

By Lilian Wu

Taipei, March 30 (CNA) Foreign Affairs Minister Timothy Yang said Friday that the U.S. beef dispute not only involves beef but is also related to how the country shows its resolve to liberalize trade and strengthen its competitive edge.

Yang was referring to the current row over whether to allow imports of U.S. beef containing residue of the leanness enhancer ractopamine.

Taiwan currently bans imports of beef containing the leanness enhancerbut is planning to lift the ban conditionally under pressure from the United States.

Speaking at National University of Tainan in southern Taiwan, Yang said that many countries are now seeking to sign free trade agreements (FTAs) to strengthen their competitiveness through regional integration.

He noted that while Taiwan’s economic development relies heavily on foreign trade, its pace of signing FTAs with other countries is relatively slow.

He said that South Korea, Taiwan’s main rival, has left Taiwan far behind since its FTAs with both the European Union and the United States took effect.

Although Taiwan signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China in 2010, the ECFA is only a small partof a real FTA, the minister added.

He said Taiwan cannot rely only on mainland China, and needs tonegotiate FTAs with other major trading partners.

"But we have to ask ourselves if we are ready for trade liberalization," Yang continued.

He said that faced with a rapidly rising China, the country has to deal with the situation whether it likes it or not.

He also said that the United States is a major ally of Taiwan in the international community, and can give Taiwan the most substantive support, should it so decide.

Yang said the beef row involves major policy strategy and that the government needs to consider Taiwan’s competitiveness, althoughthis will always be done with the overlying premise of safeguardingthe health of the people.