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US senators write to Taiwan President Ma over meat trade issue

Central News Agency | 2008-11-29

U.S. senators write to Taiwan President Ma over meat trade issue

Two influential American senators have written to Republic of China President Ma Ying-jeou expressing "deep concern" about what they describe as "continued Taiwanese barriers to U.S. agricultural products."

In a Nov. 19 letter to Ma, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee’s Ranking Member, said Taiwan’s restrictions on imports of U.S. beef and pork might violate World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and could undermine economic relations between the two countries.

Noting that they were vocal supporters of Taiwan’s accession to the WTO, they wrote: "It is troubling that Taiwan is engaging in repeated abuse of food safety requirements designed to exclude U.S. agricultural imports from your market — actions that may violate WTO rules."

Taiwan allows only imports of U.S. boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age because of concerns about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease. It also restricts imports of U.S. pork over concerns about ractopamine, a drug that is used as a feed additive to promote leanness in pigs and which has been banned in Taiwan since 2006.

Not only the U.S. congressional members but also the Bush administration have expressed displeasure over Taiwan’s restrictions on U.S. beef and pork. Sources familiar with Taiwan-U.S. economic engagements have confirmed reports that the regular Taiwan-U.S. dialogue under their bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) have been delayed over Taiwan’s curbs on U.S. meat imports.

Officials at Taiwan’s representative office in Washington, D.C. said they fully understand U.S. concerns about beef issues and have conveyed all relevant information to Taipei. If any decision is reached by the Taiwanese authorities, they went on, the representative office will act accordingly.

Baucus is a key supporter of the signing of a Taiwan-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA). He and Grassley wrote in their letter that nearly five years ago, Taiwan’s Department of Health (DOH) banned imports of American beef because of concerns about mad cow disease.

"Since that time, the United States has adopted comprehensive control measures for BSE and the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) has determined that all cuts of American beef, from animals of all ages, are safe," the letter stressed.

While Taiwan has resumed importing boneless beef from cattle "To maintain its status as a strong, consistent economic partner with the United States, Taiwan must treat U.S. products fairly," they added.

 source: Taiwan News