Taiwan Eases Restrictions on US Beef, Pork Imports

US, Taiwan Relationship Intensifies as Bilateral Trade Agreement Raised
August 28, 2020 Updated: August 30, 2020

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen announced Friday that she has instructed her government ministries to relax restrictions on imports of American Beef and Pork—a move she said was consistent with Taiwan’s “overall national interests and future strategic development goals.”

Tsai said in a statement that, following a comprehensive assessment, Taiwan will ease restrictions on imports of U.S. beef from cattle aged 30 months or older.

The Taiwanese government will also set permissible residue levels for the animal food additive ractopamine in imported pork. Ractopamine is commonly used in animal feedstuffs in the United States to ensure leaner cuts of meat, and to increase animal feed conversion rates. According to the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, ractopamine residues in U.S. meat products had been an insurmountable obstacle for trade talks between the 2 parties for over a decade.

“I trust that if we can take this key step regarding U.S. beef and pork issues, it will be an important starting point for more comprehensive Taiwan-U.S. economic cooperation,” said Tsai. “In the future, we can develop a more dynamic and vigorous economic and trade strategy. For industries, especially traditional industries, that have been impacted over the past two years by the U.S.-China trade conflict and the pandemic, this is an important opportunity.”

Tsai said that from Congress to the U.S. business community, “There are clear expectations of building deeper economic and trade ties with Taiwan, which includes the potential of a Taiwan-U.S. bilateral trade agreement (BTA).”

U.S. Department of State spokesman, Morgan Ortagus, said in a statement that the State Department welcomed the development. “We look forward to the timely implementation of these actions, which will provide greater access for U.S. farmers to one of East Asia’s most vibrant markets, and for Taiwan consumers to high-quality U.S. agricultural products. President Tsai’s vision and leadership in removing these long-standing barriers open the door to greater economic and trade cooperation between the United States and Taiwan.”

Bilateral Trade Relationship Mooted

The announcement was warmly welcomed by trade bodies and the U.S. government.

“It is hard to calibrate how quickly U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) will respond to this bold unilateral move by President Tsai,” said U.S.-Taiwan Council President, Rupert Hammond-Chambers, in a statement. “There is strong support for a BTA within Congress, as well as from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and State, and from the National Security Council.”

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), said, “Taiwan is an important friend and partner of the United States, and a model for democracy in the Indo-Pacific.”

“Opening up additional trade and economic avenues with Taiwan, which is already the number two trading partner of my home state of Idaho, is important to advancing our already strong partnership,” Risch said in a statement. “I strongly support the United States exploring a free trade agreement with Taiwan and reaching more markets with high quality products made in Idaho.”

According to President Tsai, U.S.-Taiwan relations are at their strongest in decades.

“Taiwan is a significant and critical trade partner of the U.S., and Taiwan and American businesses have close cooperative relationships,” she said. “I trust that if we can take this key step regarding U.S. beef and pork issues, it will be an important starting point for more comprehensive Taiwan-U.S. economic cooperation. In the future, we can develop a more dynamic and vigorous economic and trade strategy.”

The U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, meanwhile, called on the United States to respond to the move by initiating BTA negotiations as soon as possible.

“A BTA between the U.S. and Taiwan would be the kind of template agreement that the Trump Administration could highlight as a future platform for global trade engagement,” said Hammond-Chambers. “It could include important new platforms for technology, particularly in the semiconductor industry, and for energy and healthcare collaboration. In addition, we would see improved market access for American manufacturers and agricultural producers.”

“It would be a huge win for America,” he said.