Suspension of TIFA talks is a loss for Taiwan, US: health minister

The China Post news staff

The China Post news staff–Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang said it would be a major loss for both Taiwan and the United States if the latter decided to postpone a new round of bilateral trade talks simply because of Taiwan’s recent decision to remove some American beef products that were found to contain residue of a banned-animal drug from the local market. “The original scheduled meeting could be an opportunity for representatives of both sides to further discuss setting up a standard for ractopamine,” Yaung said yesterday, adding that the possible delay of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) would be a major loss for both sides. Yaung made the comment after local media reported earlier yesterday that the TIFA meeting originally slated for later this month in Taipei, was reportedly canceled by the U.S. side after some American beef products containing the drug Paylean, which promotes leanness in livestock, were taken off local supermarket shelves. Paylean contains ractopamine, one of four animal-use drugs along that are banned in Taiwan. The head of the Department of Health noted yesterday that he was hoping that the Americans could understand that a democratic country could not force another country’s health minister to do things without following the nation’s health regulations. He said that his ministry’s decision to remove the beef in question from the local market was done to abide by the current law that bans the animal-use drug.

Even though the drug found in these products is way below the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and does not pose an immediate threat to consumers’ health, Yaung noted that local government needs to first build up the confidence of Taiwanese regarding the safety of U.S. beef. There are indeed different standards for residue evaluation of ractopamine around the world, he noted, however said the time is not right for his ministry to discuss setting up a maximum residual level (MRL) of the animal drug allowable in meat.

“We hope the US government can show us some respect first so that we can further discuss the MRL issue in further details,” he added.