No talks in sight on US-Taiwan ractopamine dispute

By Melodie Michel

- Last updated on GMT

No talks in sight on US-Taiwan ractopamine dispute

Related tags Republic of china Beef Pork

Negotiations to lift the ractopamine ban hampering meat trade between the US and Taiwan are unlikely to happen before additional scientific studies, US industry experts have said.

Taiwanese media reported beef producers’ concern, following a closed-door ministerial meeting about beef imports on 10 February, but according to the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), there is still a long way to go before the two governments can discuss the issue.

USMEF senior vice-president of trade access Thad Lively told GlobalMeatNews​: “Before actual government-to-government negotiations can occur, the government of Taiwan will ask for the opportunity to conduct additional studies of ractopamine residues that take into account meat consumption patterns in Taiwan, so we might not see the start of negotiations until they have taken that step.”

Taiwanese producers

After his re-election last month, Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou said he was interested in resolving the issue, heating up the debate about the controversial leanness-enhancing and growth-promoting drug. Local website Focus Taiwan​ recently said that beef and pork producers were planning a protest against lifting the ban that they think preserves their competitiveness, as well as public health.

But according to Lively, not all Taiwanese meat producers share this opinion. “Our information is that many, if not most, pig producers in Taiwan have expressed an interest in using ractopamine. Today they are operating in an environment characterised by a thriving black market for ractopamine and similar products and frequent exposés in the press that damage the image of the Taiwanese pork industry and alarm consumers.

“Most producers in Taiwan would far prefer to have access to a legal, regulated, and safe product, so they can compete on an equal footing with imports from the US, Canada, and other countries where ractopamine is approved.”

The US has been pushing for Taiwan to lift the ractopamine ban for several years, and deemed President Ma’s interest in solving the problem “encouraging”​, but according to media reports, the Taiwanese government has stressed the fact that no decision has yet been made.

Taiwan is the ninth-largest single country destination for US pork and beef, but volumes dropped 13% and 9% respectively in 2011. A spokesperson for the American Meat Institute (AMI) told GlobalMeatNews​: “Taiwan is an important market for us. Just as we do in our work with all important international markets, we look for standards and rules of trade to be based on science.”

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