Washington, May 3 (CNA) Taiwan should not lose sight of the big picture in its trade relations with the United States, and American pork imports is only one of the many trade matters being discussed between the two sides, a U.S. State Department official said Tuesday.
"We can talk about the pork issue in more detail, but we also want to make sure that we're focused on the overall economic relationship, which is so key to people in both of our economies," said Susan A. Thornton, U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, in an exclusive interview with CNA.
Noting that Taiwan is the U.S.' ninth-largest trading partner and its seventh largest market for agricultural products, Thornton said the two sides are discussing a wide range of issues under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
These issues, for instance, include increasing trade and encouraging Taiwanese investments in the U.S., she said.
What Taiwan and the U.S. are discussing under TIFA will also "be a kind of a stepping stone to things that would need to be done by Taiwan in order to qualify itself for entry into TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership)," Thornton added.
On the question of Taiwan's ban on U.S. pork that contains residues of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine, Thornton said Taiwan's standards on foreign meat imports would be one of the issues set to "come into play at some point" in bilateral talks.
She said the stance advocated by the U.S. is that "these kinds of standards should be based on scientific standards and things that can be shown and proven through experience and experimentation."
During President Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) first term 2008-2012, the U.S. had been pushing for Taiwan to lift the ban on American beef containing ractopamine, as a condition to restarting TIFA talks, which had been suspended since 2007.
At the time, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) adamantly opposed lifting the ban until the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a United Nations body that sets food standards, voted in July 2012 to allow ractopamine residues in pork, beef and turkey.
Soon after the Codex vote, Taiwan formally eased the ban on U.S. beef imports containing traces of ractopamine, which led to the resumption of TIFA talks.
The DPP and the Ma administration, however, continued to support "zero tolerance" for ractopamine in pork imports, but the debate resurfaced during the campaign for the Jan. 16 presidential and legislative elections, both of which were won by the DPP.
The DPP and President-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) have since said that there is no preset stance on the U.S. pork issue, which will be handled in line with international regulations and with the goals of ensuring food safety and reducing the impact on the local pig farming industry.
(By Rita Cheng, Christie Chen and Kay Liu)enditem/pc