Posted by: mulrickillion | February 6, 2012

Taiwan’s Beef Over US Meat

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Taiwan says no bull allowed

By Jens Kastner, Asian Sentinel, Feb 6, 2012 —

Payback time for Ma – getting rice bowls ready for Obama’s beef

Taipei’s relations with Washington have been complicated for years over the supposed dangers of US meat imports. First, it was bovine spongiform encephalopathy—mad cow disease—then it was the lean meat-enhancer ractopamine, which is banned in many countries but not the US, that led to import restrictions.

Although US beef has never been a major part of bilateral trade – in 2009 it was just US$114 million or around 0.5 percent of annual US exports to the island — the Americans pressured Taipei with suspension of bilateral talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), and also made it clear that Taiwanese plans to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multilateral free trade agreement (FTA) currently promoted by the Obama Administration, are not going anywhere until the beef issue is settled.

Today, however, Washington’s push for a full opening for US beef is gaining momentum. That is because US President Barrack Obama helped his Taiwanese counterpart Ma Ying-jeou get re-elected in mid-January. Since Obama needs the support of the American meat industry for his own re-election bid, no time has been wasted in reminding Ma that it’s payback time.

It is widely believed that the Obama Administration dug deep into its bag of tricks to ensure Ma’s victory. Fearing that a win by the anti-unification Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) would complicate Sino-US relations, Washington allegedly endorsed Ma via a sudden spike in visits by high-ranking US officials to Taipei and the island’s timely listing as a candidate for the US’s visa-waiver program, among other measures.

But there is no such thing as a free lunch. While Ma and his Kuomintang confederates were still celebrating the victory, Raymond Burghardt, the US-based chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto US embassy, flew into Taipei for private talks with Ma.

Once again, beef was at the top of the agenda. A continuation of the pre-election flattery did not happen.

“Beef is one step towards Taiwan having a broader and more liberal overall trade posture. […]Taiwan needs to have better relations with the Asia-Pacific region, beyond China,” Burghardt told the press. . . .

However, Ma, well aware that protests over the same issue in South Korea had almost brought down the government of President Lee Myung Bak, eventually overturned the decision to allow imports. . . .

Asia Sentinel – Taiwan’s Beef Over US Meat

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