Taiwan hopes US pork issue will not affect TIFA discussion


TAIPEI–Taiwan hopes the issue of U.S. pork imports will not affect its major trade talks with the United States, Foreign Minister David Lin said over the weekend, while reiterating that Taiwan remains firm on the issue.

“Our stance of maintaining separate regulations for beef and pork imports is crystal clear,” Lin said in an interview with CNA on Friday.

He said Taiwan’s policy of maintaining a ban on imports of U.S. pork containing residues of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine “will not change.”

Taiwan will continue to discuss the issue with the U.S. and make its position clearly understood, Lin said.

His remarks were made after Acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said during a Senate hearing March 19 that he will press Taiwan to open its market to U.S. pork containing ractopamine residues.

Asked about the move by the U.S. to push Taiwan to lift its ban on such pork imports from the U.S., American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) spokesman Mark Zimmer said that “there is no explicit plan at this point, but it’s part of the ongoing discussion about the trade relationship.”

On the pork issue, the U.S. will continue to urge Taiwan to follow international standards and scientific norms, Zimmer added.

The AIT represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties.

The issue is seen as critical to Taiwan’s bid for a free trade agreement with the U.S. and inclusion in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc.

In mid-March, Marantis led a delegation to Taiwan to engage in talks under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which have resumed after a hiatus of nearly six years.

The pork issue was not a major topic during the recent TIFA talks, Lin said. The resumption of the trade negotiations will help strengthen economic relations between the U.S. and Taiwan, he added.

For example, both sides have decided to set up two working groups under the TIFA to deal with investment and technical barriers to trade, Lin said.

“We hope the U.S. will understand that we have expectations for the TIFA talks,” he said. “But we don’t hope the development of the TIFA will be linked to the pork issue.”

“For the time being, progress on the pork issue is unlikely,” he added.

With the resumption of the TIFA talks, Taiwan is also hoping to discuss regional economic integration and seek U.S. support for the country’s bid to join the TPP, Lin said.

The TIFA was signed in 1994 as a framework for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade-related issues in the absence of diplomatic ties, but talks were suspended from 2007 until recently, largely due to the controversy over U.S. beef imports.

In early 2012, the U.S. ratcheted up pressure on Taiwan to lift its ban on ractopamine in beef. The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou relented on the ban in the middle of that year, paving the way for the resumption of the TIFA talks.