Washington, D.C. - The Office of the United States Trade Representative and the U.S. Department of Agriculture today released a statement regarding the decision by Taiwan's Legislative Yuan to bar import of some U.S. beef and beef products. The following statement is from Deputy United States Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis and Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Jim Miller:
"We are deeply disappointed with the decision by Taiwan's Legislative Yuan to amend the Food Sanitation Act (FSA) to unjustifiably bar the import of certain U.S. beef and beef products.
"As we noted in our statement on December 29, the FSA amendment's provisions do not have a basis in science and constitute a unilateral violation of a bilateral agreement concluded in good faith by the United States with Taiwan a little over two months ago. The protocol was negotiated on the basis of the guidelines laid out by the World Organization for Animal Health (the OIE), as well as the findings of Taiwan's own risk assessment, which concluded that all U.S. beef and beef products are safe.
"The decision by Taiwan authorities to place domestic politics over science raises serious concerns. This action will also undermine Taiwan's credibility as a responsible trading partner and will make it more challenging for us to conclude future agreements to expand and strengthen bilateral trade and economic ties.
"The decision to violate our bilateral agreement is particularly disappointing, as the United States has long been one of Taiwan's most important trade and investment partners, as well as the strongest supporter of Taiwan's active participation in the global trading system, including its membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). In light of the continuing importance of our bilateral economic relationship, we urge Taiwan to honor its commitments and to implement the beef protocol as negotiated."
The United States has implemented a comprehensive set of measures, regulations, and practices that are science-based, consistent with the guidelines of the OIE for minimizing the risk posed by Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). The OIE is recognized by the WTO as the relevant standard-setting body for regulations relating to animal health. These measures allow us to assure consumers in the United States, Taiwan and elsewhere that U.S. beef and beef products - including offals and ground beef - are safe. Millions of American families enjoy these products every day.
In June 2007, the United States requested that Taiwan provide market expansion for all U.S. beef and beef products consistent with the OIE classification of the United States as a controlled-risk country. Since then, the United States has worked closely with Taiwan to provide all information necessary for Taiwan to fully evaluate these measures in the preparation of the Department of Health's final risk assessment, released by the Department of Health in January 2009, which determined that all U.S. beef and beef products are safe. In the interests of science-based trade with Taiwan, the United States has provided research, data, scientific experts, technical assistance, and detailed information regarding U.S. risk mitigation measures, as well as facilitated two on-site visits to major U.S. exporting beef establishments for Taiwan experts, all of which have underscored the safety of the relevant U.S. beef and beef products.
After over two years of extensive negotiations and scientific and technical exchanges, we concluded an agreement, the "Protocol of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)-Related Measures for the Importation of Beef and Beef Products for Human Consumption from the Territory of the Authorities Represented by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT)," on expanded market access for U.S. beef and beef products. The Protocol is science-based, consistent with the OIE guidelines, the domestic legal obligations of both sides, as well as the findings of Taiwan's own risk assessment. The Protocol thus provides further assurances that U.S. beef and beef products to be exported to Taiwan - which are the same products that are consumed by Americans at home - are safe.
Taiwan announced that the protocol would enter into force on November 2, 2009.
Under the terms of the Protocol, all tissues that are scientifically recognized as posing a risk of BSE, known as specified risk materials (SRMs), must be removed, and no SRMs or beef containing SRMs will be eligible for export to Taiwan. These tissues are tonsils and distal ileum from cattle of all ages and also the brain, eyes, spinal cord, skull, dorsal root ganglia, and vertebral column from cattle 30 months of age and older. This list excludes the vertebrae of the tail, the transverse processes of the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae, and the wings of the sacrum.
The Protocol is designed to both ensure human health and provide a clear and predictable commercial environment. The protocol specifies the actions that will be taken in response to instances of non-compliance that constitute food safety hazards, as well as to those that are unrelated to food safety. Taiwan will apply the same inspection procedures and border measures to U.S. beef imports that it applies to all imports from other countries.
The Protocol establishes a consultation mechanism under which both sides will have the opportunity to request consultations as needed to address any issues that may arise in the implementation of the Protocol.
While the Protocol allows trade in beef and beef products from cattle of any age, provided that SRM tissues are removed, the U.S. beef exporting industry has committed to voluntarily limit beef exports to Taiwan during a transitional period to products beef and beef products from cattle less than 30 months of age under a Quality Systems Assessment program verified by USDA.