Taiwan Cuts Pork and Beef Deal with U.S. as Beijing Faces Food Crisis

Taiwan President, Tsai Ing-wen speaks during a press conference at the Taipei Guest House on August 20, 2016. Tsai, who was inaugurated on May 20 as Taiwan's first female president, will mark her first 100 days in office next week and asked the public not to judge her job performance …
SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

The Taiwanese government announced relaxed restrictions on imported American beef and pork this weekend, a move President Tsai Ing-wen hoped would “boost Taiwan-U.S. ties” and build international trust.

The announcement was made at a time of growing tensions between Taiwan and China, plus a looming food crisis on the mainland after devastating floods.

Channel News Asia quoted Tsai as saying the eased restrictions have “received positive responses from several high-ranking U.S. government officials, who have expressed optimism over the future development of bilateral trade between the two sides.”

“We look forward to the timely implementation of these actions, which will provide greater access for U.S. farmers to one of East Asia’s most vibrant markets, and for Taiwan consumers to high-quality U.S. agricultural products. President Tsai’s vision and leadership in removing these long-standing barriers open the door to greater economic and trade cooperation between the United States and Taiwan,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in response Friday.

The Taipei Times cited “74 public and private-sector leaders in the U.S.” who supported Taiwan’s decision to ease restrictions on U.S. pork and beef imports. Among them were Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Council adviser Robert O’Brien, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. 

One of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s foreign policy advisers, Antony Blinken, also welcomed the news as “good for American farmers, ranchers, and our economy.” President Tsai fielded questions from reporters who asked if she was easing import restrictions as a favor to U.S. President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. Tsai said there was no such political motive behind the decision.

“This is a decision that was made based on national economic interests and is in line with future comprehensive strategic objectives,” she said.

One of the adjusted rules concerns ractopamine, a pork additive that has long been opposed with a “zero tolerance” policy by Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). A total ban on ractopamine was seen as a serious impediment to further developing bilateral trade between the U.S. and China.

Most U.S. pork producers have been attempting to eliminate ractopamine so they can more easily sell to markets like Taiwan and China, which also bans the additive, but elimination is difficult to achieve quickly because traces of the substance tend to linger in pig feed, feces, and containers. Taiwan’s new rules will, evidently, allow very small amounts of ractopamine to be present in pork.

Another rule promulgated by the Taiwanese government over the weekend will require all imported pork to be clearly labeled as such, giving Taiwanese consumers the option of avoiding it if they prefer meat with zero traces of ractopamine.

Taiwan will also begin purchasing U.S. beef from cattle that are over 30 months old. Meat from older cattle was previously banned over fears of mad-cow disease. According to Taiwan’s agriculture ministry, the new rules for both pork and beef will take effect on January 1, 2021.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been working very hard to convey the impression China’s food supply is entirely secure, even after the trade war, swine flu, coronavirus, massive flooding, and a growing problem with pests, but details such as dictator Xi Jinping’s sudden and bizarrely energetic crusade against “food waste” betray concerns within the Politburo. Food prices are rising in China, and the government has released enormous quantities of rice, corn, and soybeans from its strategic reserves, in addition to substantially boosting imports.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) noted last week that older Chinese are extremely sensitive to hints that disruptions in the food supply could lie ahead, and would be greatly reassured if their government took steps like Taiwan to ensure a steady flow of agricultural imports.

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