Taiwan to allow import bone-in beef from Canada
Consumers' rights groups question the decision
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-01-17 03:00 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The import of bone-in beef from Canada is likely to be legalized next month in a move designed to facilitate Taiwan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced Friday.

President Ma Ying-jeou’s insistence on allowing the import of beef from the United States containing residues of the lean-meat drug ractopamine immediately after his re-election in early 2012 set off months of political confrontation.

The MOEA move would also affect other Canadian meat products from cattle under 30 months of age and would go into effect after the completion of administrative procedures. In practice, the ban might be lifted in mid-February, after the Lunar New Year holiday, reports said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the same strict border controls would be in force for the Canadian imports as for the US beef, and that the agreement to open up borders also included a clause allowing Taiwan to send inspectors to beef suppliers in Canada for checks. Packages coming into Taiwan might be opened for random inspections with samples sent to laboratories, while local health authorities could investigate restaurants.

The accord also covered frozen and fresh lips, ears, tails and other parts of beef, but for some an import permit would have to be applied for. As some of those parts from the US were still banned, the new deal with Canada would also be extended to similar beef products from the US, reports said. Eyes, brains and innards would still remain blacklisted for both North American countries.

As soon as a new case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease was reported in Canada, its government should notify Taiwan, which then could consider slapping a ban on the import of Canadian beef by executive order, the Food and Drugs Administration said.

Canada registered 18 cases of BSE between April 2003 and February 2011, but the situation was now deemed to be under control. The list of 57 countries which allowed the import of Canadian beef also included South Korea, reports said. Doctors said that because the BSE cases were so recent, it was still too risky to consume the imported beef parts from Canada, but the health authorities rejected the risk.

Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch said that since the agreement with the US to import its beef products, pressure from Canada had increased by a significant margin. Since the country was a member of the TPP, Taiwan’s move showed it was serious about joining the trade association, Chang said.

Economics Vice Minister Francis Liang described 2014 as a key year for regional economic integration. Every single move by Taiwan would decide whether the country was allowed to play in the competition to attract foreign trade and investment. He predicted that Taiwan and Canada would soon sign a double taxation avoidance agreement.

Boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age has been legally imported from Canada since 2007.

According to official data, 46.09 percent of beef on the Taiwanese market is imported from Australia, 24.76 percent from the US and 23.23 percent from New Zealand. Only 6 percent is provided by domestic cattle farmers.

Government representatives also visited the Legislative Yuan Friday morning to explain the latest changes.

The latest move met with disapproval from consumers’ rights activists. The government was using the public’s health as a playing card in a game of international trade, the Homemakers United Foundation said. The group questioned the sudden decision by the government and its ability to conduct thorough tests to prevent problematic meat from entering the country.

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