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Legislature to review draft acts related to lifting ban on US beef

TAIPEI--The Legislature will begin Monday another round of reviewing draft amendments to a food safety act related to lifting a ban on imports of U.S. beef containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine, a long-running row between the two countries.

More than 15 versions of draft amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation proposed by legislators, and one version submitted by the Cabinet, will be reviewed by the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee in the coming week.

Several of the draft acts submitted by lawmakers propose a zero-tolerance policy for ractopamine, which is against the government's policy of conditionally easing the ban.

The government argues that an easing of the ban on ractopamine that is being pushed by Washington will help lead to a resumption of trade talks with the United States that authorities see as vital to Taiwan's economic future.

Many lawmakers and private groups, however, strongly oppose the move and contend that it will negatively affect the health of local consumers.

The U.S. beef row has also created partisan rifts in the Legislature, leading to several legislative sessions being boycotted by lawmakers of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, the Taiwan Solidarity Union and the People First Party.

These included one meeting at the committee in late March that attempted but failed to review draft amendments to the food act.

Opposition party legislators insisted that the Cabinet should submit its own version of draft amendments before the review began, as the conditional easing of the ban was proposed by the government.

In early March, the Cabinet decided to lift the ban based on the principles of “allowing a safe level of ractopamine in beef, separating the permits for importing beef and pork, clearly labeling beef imports and excluding imports of internal organs.”

Taiwan wants to resolve the beef dispute with the U.S. because it is central to the re-opening of bilateral talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which have been stalled since 2007 mainly because of controversy over U.S. beef imports.

The TIFA was signed in 1994 as a platform for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade-related issues in the absence of diplomatic ties.

President Ma Ying-jeou has reiterated that the beef issue needs to be addressed as soon as possible so that the long-stalled trade talks can be resumed, and Taiwan's international trade competitiveness can be enhanced.

The U.S. decided against resuming TIFA talks in early 2011 after Taiwan refused to allow the entry of shipments of U.S. beef containing ractopamine residue.

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