In August, Taiwan said it would lift restrictions on U.S. pork and beef imports, and in a New Year’s Address on Jan. 1, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen again called for support for the action in order to improve U.S. trade relations.
Tsai previously instructed the relevant ministries to set permissible ractopamine residue levels for imported pork and ease restrictions on the import of beef from U.S. cattle aged 30 months or older in accordance with scientific evidence and international standards.
“From the recent discussions and disputes surrounding the decision to further open the domestic market to beef and pork importation that meets international standards, I fully understand why previous administrations could not follow through with their promises to do that,” Tsai says. “Taiwan depends on trade to survive. This issue was left pending by three successive administrations, so there was no way to avoid it.”
She adds, “With utmost humility, I ask my fellow citizens for your understanding, and hope everyone knows that we thought long and hard before making this decision.”
The U.S. White House National Security Council on Saturday tweeted that it looks forward to strengthening U.S.-Taiwan economic ties in 2021 and the action offered “great news for farmers.”
According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, Taiwan remains an important beef export market for U.S. beef producers. U.S. beef maintains nearly 75% of the chilled beef market in Taiwan. For 2020 imports through October, USMEF reports 54,162 metric tons of U.S. beef exports to Taiwan, 2% ahead of the record pace set in 2019 and a value of $460 million. With a strong finish to 2020, it could possibly set new records, USMEF adds.
Since 2013, the U.S. has been listed by the World Organization for Animal Health as having "negligible risk" for BSE. Similarly, in 2019 the Ministry of Health and Welfare conducted a rigorous risk assessment and also concluded that there is no safety risk.
“By lifting the age-based restriction on U.S. beef, Taiwan confirms the long-held understanding that the best trade relationships are based on objective, science-based standards that ensure consumers have steady access to a safe food supply. Taiwanese consumers can rest assured that U.S. beef is considered some of the safest beef in the world,” says Kent Bacus, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association senior director of international trade and market access.
Bacus adds many other countries also recognize the safety of U.S. cattle and have lifted similar age-based restrictions. “This is an important step forward for Taiwan and we encourage their adoption of internationally-recognized science-based standards. Taiwan is one of the fastest-growing markets for U.S. beef, and Taiwanese consumers can be assured that we will continue serving them the same high quality, safe and delicious beef that we serve our families,” Bacus says.
USMEF states Taiwan is a much smaller market for U.S. pork, with most raw material used for further processing. However, imports did increase in 2020 with USMEF data through October showing an increase of 25% to 18, 746 mt and the value up 33% to $48.5 billion.
The National Pork Producers Council notes since 2007, Taiwan has denied market access to U.S. pork raised with ractopamine, despite an overwhelming body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the safety of the feed additive. Ractopamine is widely used as a feed ingredient in global beef and pork production. It is approved for use in production by nearly 30 nations and by the CODEX Alimentarius, the international standard-setting organization. Imports of pork raised with ractopamine are accepted by 75 countries. Although ractopamine use by hog farmers is not widespread, it is an option that is safe and acceptable.
In August, Tsai says government agencies in Taiwan also conducted health risk assessments of pork and beef products containing ractopamine in 2012, and 2019. “Their findings all showed that there is no health safety risk when ractopamine levels are below the limit set by Codex Alimentarius,” she says.