Taiwan Trying to Minimize Impact from Beef Trade Spat

January 5, 2010 06:00 PM

Roger Bernard, Farm Journal Policy & Washington Editor

Taiwan's parliament this week resumed a ban on certain U.S. beef imports, triggering a terse response from the United States.

Taiwanese legislators unanimously passed an amendment to the food health law banning imports of cow organs, minced beef and other items seen as high-risk such as spines and eyes, said parliamentary speaker Wang Jin-pyng. The ban is also reportedly including beef from animals over 30 months of age.

From the U.S. side, Deputy United States Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis and Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Jim Miller released a joint statement, saying they are "deeply disappointed with the decision by Taiwan's Legislative Yuan to amend the Food Sanitation Act (FSA) to unjustifiably bar the import of certain U.S. beef and beef products."

The two officials also said, "The decision by Taiwan authorities to place domestic politics over science raises serious concerns. This action will also undermine Taiwan's credibility as a responsible trading partner and will make it more challenging for us to conclude future agreements to expand and strengthen bilateral trade and economic ties."

Taiwan plans to send a delegation of government officials, lawmakers and experts to the U.S. in a bid to limit the fallout from the beef controversy, officials said. "We will continue to communicate with the U.S. on the beef issue while trying to ease the concerns of Taiwan's public," said presidential spokesman Wang Yu-chi. "The Presidential Office respects the legislative decision and will make the utmost effort to obtain U.S. understanding," he added.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said he doubted the beef trade situation will greatly affect U.S.-Taiwan relations. He and others are stressing that only about 2% of expected U.S. beef shipments to Taiwan would be affected by the legislative change approved this week.

Talks have been called for by Taiwanese officials, but it's not clear the U.S. will grant the request. If not, Taiwan officials are signaling they seek to address the matter via talks that are called for six months after approval of the meat trade deal that was finalized in October.

Click on links below to read responses from beef industry and agriculture groups.
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