l Though the “Trade and Investment Framework Agreement” (TIFA) talks between US and Taiwan were originally scheduled to take place in Taipei on January 28, the controversy surrounding the animal feed additive, ractopamine, that was recently found in imported US beef has undermined mutual trust and forced the indefinite postponement of the bilateral economic dialogue.
l Referring to ”the atmosphere is not good for the United States and Taiwan to resume talks on further trade liberalization” as the primary reason behind the postponement decision, the TIFA talks, which was suspended in 2007 over, among other factors, US beef imports, will now have to wait.
l Although Taiwan once considered lifting the ractopamine ban in 2007 after its own scientific research assessed that the use of the additive was safe, government regulations continued to ban the additive in livestock today primarily because of massive protests from local pig farmers. Therefore, the earlier proposal by Taiwan’s Department of Health (DOH) and the Council of Agriculture (COA) to allow ractopamine was never implemented, further fueling the controversy behind the discovery of the additive this time.
l With or without ractopamine, the controversy surrounding US beef will likely continue to hinder progress in future US-Taiwan trade talks. As cross-Strait economic relations are moving forward quickly, there are a number of pressing issues, particularly intellectual property rights protection, that both Washington and Taipei need to address.
l While things may slow down a bit in the next few months, there could be enough "improvements in the atmosphere” between US and Taiwan when Beijing and Taipei are set to sign mutual investment protection agreement at the next cross-Strait summit, likely scheduled for late spring or early summer.
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