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Taiwan Seeks Talks With U. S. After Banning Beef

The U. S. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said it was “outrageous” for Taiwan to suggest U. S. beef posed risks.

Taiwan, eager to mend trade ties with the U. S. a day after overturning part of a deal to import U. S. beef products, said Jan. 6 it would seek to reopen talks with its biggest ally.

Taiwan is ready to restart talks immediately and will ask the U. S. government when it could renegotiate beef-related issues, the Government Informat ion Office said, citing a statement by Premier Wu Denyih.

The island’s parliament changed a food safety law Jan. 5 to ban some U. S. beef imports, sparking an angry response from the U. S., which said the move undermined Taiwan’s credibility as a trading partner.

On Oct. 22, Taiwan said that after a six-year ban it would reopen markets to U. S. bone-in beef such as T-bone steaks as well as ground beef and offal, which includes parts such as cow brain.

Under the bill passed in parliament Jan. 5 over mad cow disease fears, imports of ground beef and cow offal will now not be allowed. The beef issue has handed Taiwan President Ma Yingjeou one of his biggest crises since he took office in 2008.

The amendment to Taiwan’s Food Sanitation Act bans imports of all ground beef and offals from any country that has had a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, for a period of 10 years from the exporting country’s most recent case.

“NOT HAPPY”

That list would include Canada as well as the U. S., although Canada did not get the same market access granted to the U. S. in October. Canadian beef exports to Taiwan have been

limited to boneless beef from animals under 30 months old (UTMs) since 2007.

From Canada’s perspective, federal officials until now had been reportedly making some progress on technical matters relating to expanded beef market access in Taiwan, according to John Masswohl, director of governmental and international relations for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

The problem now in Taiwan is on the political side of the coin, which leaves federal officials conveying that Canada is “not very happy” with the new import regime, Masswohl said from Ottawa Jan. 6.

Washington, meanwhile, wants Taipei to live by the Oct. 22 agreement, the de facto embassy in Taiwan said. It had no comment on Taiwan’s Jan. 6 request for immediate renegotiations.

Analysts said pressure from U. S. officials had prompted Taiwan to lift the bans before gauging public opinion. A backlash from voter-conscious senior members of the ruling Nationalist Party (KMT) led to an official apology followed by Tuesday’s bipartisan legislative bill.

The ban has caused confusion for U. S. beef exporters in Taiwan, their sixth-largest market by value, worth $114 million as of the end of October.

The U. S. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said it was “outrageous” for Taiwan to suggest U. S. beef posed risks.

Taiwan has been a high priority for Canadian officials seeking to expand beef exports, Masswohl said. The country wasn’t traditionally a large exporter by weight, but had been considered a “high-value market” for premium cuts, worth more money per kilogram.

(With files by Dave Bedard)

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