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June 28, 2017

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Lifting ban on Canadian beef is 'strong signal' for TPP bid

Taiwan is finally ready to lift its ban on Canadian bone-in beef from cattle under 30-months old. The announcement was made Friday after the country's food safety agency gave Canadian beef the green light in terms of meat safety and fell into line with other countries in Asia. We are also confident that the government's decision to relax the ban won't compromise the level of safety for Taiwanese consumers. As Canada is also a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the government's move will also be telling the world that "We (Taiwan) are serious (about entering the TPP)," and "We want to secure a place in the partnership's second round of negotiations," which will be very well accepted by the business community as a whole.

After all, local residents deserve the best beef options at an affordable price. Canadian beef has long garnered acclaim among gourmets for being evenly marbled, delicately textured and simply delicious. According to the Canada Beef Export Federation (CBEF), Canadian cattle are grain-fed and raised in a wholesome environment with high-latitude climate. Each animal is also earmarked and tracked with the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags from breeding, birth and feeding all the way to slaughter, packaging and export. The entire process is monitored under Canadian law, and is worthy of the consumers' trust.

The government agencies on a delegation to Canada last year that inspected the slaughterhouses and evaluated Canada's request to allow imports of the country's bone-in beef have all come to the same conclusion: Canadian beef is sound and safe. The Canadian food safety regime is among the world's best and guarantees that Canadian agricultural products are a healthy and safe choice for the Taiwanese consumer.

Canada had been trying to prove that its beef is safe to consume after its first case of mad cow disease surfaced in 2003, when the ban was first established. Taiwan reopened its market to imports of boneless beef in 2007. This week's announcement further reflects the strong economic ties between Taipei and Ottawa, and demonstrates clearly Taiwan's desire to further liberalize its economy and further integrate into the broader regional and global economy. Nearby countries like Japan and South Korea have been importing Canadian beef long before Taiwan's recent nod of agreement. After Taiwan again allowed the import of U.S. beef (excluding intestines) last year, it was expected that Taipei would soon give the same treatment to Ottawa.

Speaking at a press event on Friday, Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) was right when he pointed out that Canada is also a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), stressing that the government's decision is poised to send the business community a strong signal regarding Taiwan's plan to join the TPP in the near future. The time is ripe for such discussions. On the one hand, the Canadian government has already suggested holding bilateral discussions on double taxation issues and insurance agreements once Taiwan legalized the import of Canadian beef, while Taiwan was also granted the visa waiver and working holiday programs last year.

The other good news is that a resumption of unrestricted beef exports from Canada to Taiwan could mean lower prices for beef in supermarkets here. That is the ultimate good news for customers who have seen a continuous increase of domestic prices in recent years and an increase in food scandals of all sorts.

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