Tsai needs to concede on US pork


By Bill Sharp, Editorial, Taipei Times (Taiwan)

Jul 28, 2020


Sharp is a visiting academic at National Taiwan University and a Taiwan Fellowship recipient


Nearly two months into her second term, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has already gained enormous political capital.


In January’s presidential election, she received a record-breaking 8,170,231 votes, and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) retained control of the legislature. Her capital has further grown due to the exemplary manner in which her administration has managed COVID-19.


With a 68 percent approval rating, according to a New Power Party poll in May, Tsai needs to use that banked capital to open Taiwan’s market to US pork and food imports from five Japanese prefectures. By doing so, she would reduce Taiwan’s economic dependence on China and buttress the nation’s sovereignty.


Throughout her campaign, Tsai drew attention to the close relationship that she has developed with the US. Nevertheless, she lacks a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the US, as well as a bilateral investment treaty (BIT), despite taking every opportunity to promote such deals to US officials or members of the US Congress.


The major stumbling block is that Taiwan has refused to open its market to US pork containing ractopamine, an additive that enhances leanness, claiming that it is not safe.


Nevertheless, the US Food and Drug Administration has declared ractopamine safe. The additive is allowed in pork production in 26 countries, with another 75 nations permitting imports of pork containing ractopamine.


Moreover, in July 2012, the UN’s Codex Alimentarius Commission, which sets international standards for food safety, approved a maximum residue limit for ractopamine which US pork meets.


The US position is firm and would remain fixed: No US pork imports, no trade agreement. Frankly, a Taiwan-US FTA or BIT is much more important to Taiwan than they are to the US.


The US trade deficit with Taiwan was US$25 billion last year. A trade deal would likely increase that deficit.


While said to be friendly to Taiwan, US President Donald Trump is hawkish about reducing US trade deficits. Furthermore, he is unlikely to take any position on Taiwan that he thinks might impair trade negotiations with China.


Tsai needs to use her political capital to persuade the public and civic groups that US pork poses no health danger.


Let the market decide...