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Former Premier Lai apologizes for politicizing U.S. meat imports

2019/01/14 23:44:34

CNA file photo

Taipei, Jan. 14 (CNA) Former Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) on Monday apologized for previously taking a tough stance against allowing the import of pork and beef products with leanness enhancing additives from the United States, saying that this issue should not have been politicized.

The former premier led his Cabinet in resigning en masse last Friday to take responsibility for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's major defeat in local government elections in November.

In his outgoing speech on Monday, Lai urged all parties to strive for a political culture that holds the good of the nation above everything else.

"There's no escaping my own complicity as a legislator at that time, and I must apologize to the public. Now I can say solemnly and sincerely that all parties must strive for a political culture that holds the good of the nation above all," Lai said.

"Society should adopt international standards and engage in international trade if we are to have the opportunity to join in regional economic integration, and avoid taking Taiwan down a path of ever greater difficulty," Lai said, citing the U.S. pork and beef ban as an example.

In the past, when the Kuomintang (KMT) was in power, the then opposition DPP rejected opening Taiwan's domestic market to beef and pork from the U.S. to pave the way for signing a bilateral trade agreement with Washington. But when the DPP became the ruling party, it changed its stance and proposed lifting the ban. However, the now opposition KMT objected to doing so, Lai said.

As a result, the DPP, which became the ruling party since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in 2016, continues to maintain an import ban on pork and beef products that contain a feed addictive called ractopamine.

While Taiwan has not amended its ban on ractopamine in pork products, which has been in effect since 2006, it relented on its ban of the chemical in beef products in 2012, allowing such imports with a maximum ractopamine residue level of 10 ppb into the country.

The U.S. government has repeatedly cited Taiwan's import restrictions as one of the trade barriers between the two economies, and an obstacle toward signing a free trade agreement.

According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), one of the main priorities for the U.S. in its trade with Taiwan is to remove the country's barriers to U.S. pork products and certain U.S. beef products produced using ractopamine.

If Taiwan continues to remain adamant on the American meat ban, it would be hard for the country to move up from being a "good friend" to an "ally" of the U.S., an economic official said.

Citing the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) as an example, the official said Washington has yet to schedule a date with Taipei for the next round of talks.

Although many experts have speculated that Taiwan's ractopamine ban was the reason hindering a new round of talks between the two sides, the official said until political parties start to put national interests before partisan politics, it will be very hard for the country to move forward with the U.S. in trade talks any time soon.

(By Liao Yu-yang and Ko Lin)