The United States and Taiwan held their latest round of negotiations under their Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) last week. The talks covered a range of trade and investment issues, including Taiwan’s zero-tolerance policy for the presence of ractopamine in imported pork.
The policy is in effect despite the fact that in August 2007, Taiwan notified the World Trade Organization that it was tentatively establishing a maximum residue level (MRL) for the feed additive. The MRL was based on studies by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the U.N.’s international food safety standard-setting body (in 2012, the Codex Commission established an MRL for ractopamine, which U.S. pork producers easily meet).
Taiwan withdrew the WTO notification after intense pressure from its pork producers. The country’s ractopamine policy violates the WTO Sanitary-Phytosanitary Agreement, which requires that SPS measures be based on scientific evidence and that they only be applied to the extent necessary to protect human or animal health.
U.S. exports of pork to Taiwan declined from a high of 31,500 metric tons in 2004 to just 18,739 metric tons last year. Dermot Hayes, an economist at Iowa State University, estimates that U.S. pork losses in the Taiwanese market because of the ractopamine issue could be as much as $150 million annually.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative expressed disappointment that during the latest TIFA talks no progress was made on the ractopamine issue. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has indicated her country will consider standards applied by other nations, including Japan and South Korea, which accept pork from hogs fed ractopamine.