Thu, Jan 07, 2010 - Page 1 News List

US State Department regrets beef ban

DISAPPOINTED The deputy US trade representative expressed serious concern over the Legislative Yuan’s decision to ‘place domestic politics over science’

By Jenny W. Hsu and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

An employee restocks beef imported from the US at a supermarket in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

The US Department of State yesterday expressed disappointment over Taiwan’s partial ban on US beef products but said Washington would not retaliate by holding back arms sales to Taiwan.

“We’re very disappointed with the Taiwan legislature’s decision to ban certain cuts of US beef in violation of our bilateral agreement signed just over two months ago,” Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of the department’s Bureau of Public Affairs, said at a briefing in Washington.

“We remain committed, however, to further developing our broad-ranging and positive relationship with the people of Taiwan,” he said.

Crowley rejected speculation that the beef ban would affect the US’ intention to meet Taiwan’s security needs.

“US government policy and decisions in the security arena are based on the Taiwan Relations Act [TRA]. And as stipulated in the TRA, the US will continue to make available to Taiwan defense articles and services needed for Taiwan’s self-defense,” he said.

On Tuesday, the legislature passed an amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) that targets beef products from countries with documented cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, over the past decade. The amendment effectively bars US ground beef, beef offal and other beef parts such as the skull, eyes and intestines from access, contravening a bilateral protocol signed by Taiwan and the US in October.

After the American Institute in Taiwan on Tuesday expressed regret over the ban, Deputy US Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis and Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Jim Miller also issued a statement to express disappointment and serious concern over the decision to “place domestic politics over science.”

Marantis and Miller said the amendment’s provisions “do not have a basis in science” and “constitute a unilateral violation” of the latest US-Taiwan protocol. They stressed that the protocol was negotiated on the basis of the guidelines laid out by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), as well as the findings of Taiwan’s own risk assessment, which concluded that all US beef and beef products were safe.

The US meat industry has objected to the ban, with National Cattlemen Beef Association (NCBA) chief economist Gregg Doud saying it was “outrageous” to suggest that US beef was risky and that “US beef producers are sick and tired of being used as political football” by Taiwanese politicians.

Doud said the concerns cited by politicians had no basis in scientific fact and “fly in the face of Taiwan’s own risk assessment.”

The NCBA urged the administration of US President Barack Obama to explore every option to rectify the situation.

American Meat Industry president J. Patrick Boyle said Taiwan had failed to live up to its obligations.

“US beef is among the safest anywhere and data show a record of sustained food safety progress,” he said. “There is simply no scientific basis for Taiwan’s action and at this point we must question the seriousness of their commitment to being a true trade partner.”

US Meat Export Federation president Philip Seng said the policy ignored scientific findings and the “controlled risk” status given by the OIE to both the US and Taiwan with regard to bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

GROWING MARKET

The federation added, however, that allowing imports of bone-in cuts would expand the US meat market in Taiwan. Taiwan is the US’ sixth-largest market for US beef exports by value. Exports totaled US$114.3 million last year — an increase of 6 percent over 2008.

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