Taipei, June 12 (CNA) Taiwan should be able to re-open talks with the United States under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) if the Legislature votes to relax Taiwan's ban on imports of U.S. beef containing ractopamine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.
Both the government and the U.S. are eager to resume the TIFA talks, said Steve Hsia, the ministry's deputy spokesman.
However, he acknowledged that opening Taiwan to U.S. beef containing ractopamine is a precondition for any such resumption.
Hsia's remarks came on the day the Legislature was scheduled to vote on an amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation, which mandates a ban on ractopamine, a drug used as a feed additive that is allowed in the U.S. but banned in Taiwan and many other countries.
The long-term dispute over whether to allow imports of U.S. beef containing ractopamine has resulted in the suspension of talks under the TIFA framework since 2008.
The deputy spokesman said the TIFA talks have been stalled for too long and that this had hindered trade relations between Taiwan and the U.S.
U.S. officials such as the director of the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan, William Stanton, and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk have recently expressed eagerness about reopening the talks, he said.
Imports of U.S. beef have been a sore point in trade ties between Taipei and Washington.
Taiwan first banned imports when a case of mad cow disease was reported in the state of Washington in December 2003, but re-opened its doors to imports of boneless U.S. beef from cattle under 30 months old in April 2005.
It imposed another ban in June 2005 when a second U.S. mad cow case was reported.
Imports of boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age were resumed in 2006 and of bone-in beef in late 2009. Washington has been pressing for wider opening and, more recently, has been lobbying strongly for Taiwan to lift its ban on beef containing ractopamine residue.
(By Nancy Liu)