Taiwan eases US beef and pork ban, eyes potential trade deal

TAIPEI: Taiwan will ease restrictions on US beef and pork imports, President Tsai Ing-wen announced Friday, in an effort to help pave the way for a bilateral trade pact.

The ban on certain American beef and pork imports has been one of the main obstacles to a trade deal between the two allies.

“This (decision) is based on our country’s economic interests and the overall strategic development goals,” Tsai said at a press conference.

“I believe that with the issue of American pork and beef — if we can move a crucial step forward — it will become an important start to a full-range of Taiwan-US economic cooperation.”

Taiwan had previously banned all US pork because of its zero tolerance for ractopamine, a controversial leaner-meat promoting additive used by American farmers.

It will now set a standard on ractopamine residue in pork.

Taiwan will also open its market to imported American beef from cattle older than 30 months, previously banned because of earlier mad cow disease outbreaks in the US.

A US Trade Representative (USTR) report released in 2019 said the island’s restrictions on imports of beef and pork was a major barrier to greater trade ties between the two sides.

The US is Taiwan’s second-largest trading partner, accounting for 11.8% of total trade and 12% of Taiwan’s imports.

Taiwan’s largest trading partner China has signalled it may end its trade deal with the island after it expires next month.

The 10-year agreement, signed under the previous Beijing-friendly Ma Ying-jeou administration, cut tariffs on more than 500 Taiwanese exports.

Since then, relations have taken a turn for the worse.

China has cut off official communication and ramped up diplomatic, military and economic pressure on Taiwan since Tsai came to power in 2016 as she views the island as a sovereign nation and not part of “one China”.