The path toward a potential free trade agreement between the U.S. and Taiwan became a little smoother Aug. 28 when Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said her country will ease restrictions on imports of U.S. beef and pork. The U.S. has complained about these restrictions for many years and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said recently that further deepening the bilateral trade and investment relationship would depend on Taiwan resolving them.

According to USTR’s most recent foreign trade barriers report, Taiwan banned imports of U.S. beef and beef products following the detection of an animal with bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the U.S. in 2003. In 2006, Taiwan began allowing imports of U.S. deboned beef derived from animals under 30 months of age. The two sides reached an agreement in October 2009 to fully reopen Taiwan’s market to U.S. beef, but several months later Taiwan’s legislature banned imports of U.S. ground beef, as well as all beef and beef products from cattle 30 months of age and older, for at least 10 years following the last confirmed case of BSE or variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

With respect to pork, the report states that Taiwan has not implemented a maximum residue limit for ractopamine in pork despite notifying the World Trade Organization in 2007 of its intent to do so. U.S. ranchers commonly give this substance to pigs to promote lean muscle growth. Taiwan authorities have said pressure from the domestic pork industry and consumer groups have prevented them from establishing an MRL, which would allow imports of pork with levels of ractopamine under the MRL.

According to press reports, Tsai said she has now instructed her government to ease restrictions on beef from animals over 30 months of age and to set an MRL for ractopamine in pork.

USTR had not responded to the news at press time, but a Reuters article quoted a State Department spokeswoman as encouraging “the timely implementation of these actions.”

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