Ministers, Taipei mayor in spat over ractopamine pork imports

10/29/2020 11:57 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, Oct. 29 (CNA) Taiwan's health and agriculture chiefs on Thursday engaged in a spat with Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) over whether countries other than the United States will also be allowed to export pork containing ractopamine to Taiwan under a recently amended administrative directive.

The controversy started Wednesday, when Ko criticized the Democratic Progressive Party administration for amending regulations to allow countries around the world to export pork containing the controversial veterinary drug ractopamine to Taiwan.

He said the administration has yet to clarify whether the relaxed regulations would apply only to the United States, or other countries as well.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Aug. 28 announced that Taiwan would open its doors to imports of U.S. beef from cattle aged over 30 months and imported pork with acceptable levels of ractopamine residue. The new policy, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021, is widely considered an effort to satisfy U.S. requirements for a bilateral trade deal.

The government has since put forth several administrative directives aimed at easing restrictions on pork and beef imports. According to the wording of an amended directive, which was announced in September, "Beta-adrenergic agonists are drugs that cannot be manufactured, prepared, imported, exported, sold or be on display in Taiwan; cows and swine that are administered ractopamine overseas are not included in this restriction."

On Thursday, when asked about Ko's remarks, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) conceded that according to the directive, other countries can in fact export ractopamine pork to Taiwan.

However, he quickly added that in reality, the United States is likely to be the only country to do so because nine of the 13 countries currently allowed to export pork to Taiwan are European Union countries, which ban the use of the drug, while the remaining countries other than the United States -- Canada, New Zealand and Australia -- are unlikely to export pork containing ractopamine to Taiwan.

Chen said Canada currently does not export ractopamine pork to any other country. Taiwan imports little pork from New Zealand, while Australian pork imports account for only 0.02 percent of Taiwan's annual pork imports, he added.

Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) also defended the government's new policy Thursday, saying Canada and Australia currently do not export pork containing ractopamine to other countries.

As for New Zealand, Chen Chi-chung said Taiwan does not currently import a large amount of pork from New Zealand. That is not going to change just because Taiwan revised its ractopamine limits, he argued.

In response, Taipei Deputy Mayor Huang Shan-shan (黃珊珊) said when pork importers see there is profit to be made by importing ractompamine pork from other countries to Taiwan next year, it will be impossible to stop them from doing so.

(By Wang Yang-yu, Chang Ming-hsuan, Chiang Yi-ching and Christie Chen)

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