Taipei, Feb. 20 (CNA) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will send its first-ever trade mission to Taiwan in April, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said Tuesday.
Citing a USDA press release issued on December, AIT spokesperson Amanda Mansour told CNA that the trade mission will take place from April 22 to 24.
Mansour said she believed the head of the delegation would meet with Taiwanese authorities, but she had no further information on the specific items to be discussed.
According to the USDA statement, the delegation will be headed by USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator Ken Isley and will consist of about 80 people, including other agriculture officials and representatives from an estimated 40 companies.
The mission's goal will be to strengthen and deepen agricultural ties with Taiwan, the statement said.
The U.S. is Taiwan's top overseas supplier of agricultural products, with a 31 percent market share, and U.S. agricultural exports to Taiwan reached a record US$3.8 billion in fiscal year 2018, according to USDA statistics.
The mission was originally set to take place in March but was recently rescheduled to April.
The AIT's comments were in response to CNA questions asking for confirmation that the mission will take place and if it will discuss Taiwan's ongoing ban on U.S. pork containing the controversial leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine.
The question was first raised by opposition New Power Party (NPP) lawmaker Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), who asked Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) earlier Tuesday if the U.S. agricultural delegation will pressure Taiwan to lift the ban during the visit.
In response, Su said there has been no change in the government's stance regarding the ban.
The U.S. has long criticized Taiwan's zero-tolerance policy in its import of meat products and views Taiwan's ractopamine ban as a trade barrier.
The dispute has complicated trade talks and led to a five-year period from 2008 to 2012 during which bilateral talks under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) were suspended.
In July 2012, Taiwan's Legislative Yuan passed amendments to a food safety act, paving the way for the import of U.S. beef containing ractopamine. The TIFA talks subsequently resumed in March 2013 in Taipei.
Since then, the U.S. has been pushing for Taiwan to accept a maximum residue level for U.S. pork containing ractopamine, which is banned as a feed additive in the majority of countries in the world and has potential safety concerns for both pigs and humans.