Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ractopork coming to a supermarket near you?

There's been much commentary on Taiwan this month from the Heritage and Brookings, both of which hosted Taiwan-related events. Rupert Hammond-Chambers, head of the US-Taiwan Business Council, opined that the Ma Administration should be announcing soon that FTA agreements with major trading partner Singapore and also with New Zealand should be finalized soon. Good news, if true.

He and other speakers at the Heritage Foundation mentioned that, in the context of the TIFA trade talks between the US and Taiwan, the issue of ractopork should be easily solved and the talks moved forward (remember, the TIFA talks are more like discussions about having talks). Hammond-Chambers said that the local papers are inflating the issues and are too parochial. I wonder if the US side really understands: (1) The beef issue was artfully used by the Ma Administration to irritate relations with the US. Pork is absolutely central to Taiwanese cooking -- the word meat in Chinese, by default, means pork. US ractopork imports may well be even more politically unpopular than ractobeef, which makes them a perfect tool for the Ma Administration to continue its policies of irritating Washington. (2) There are few local beef producers, but a myriad of local pig farmers and slaughterhouses. The political clout of the pork industry is great, and the local KMT patronage systems need those farmers to provide votes for its rural representatives.

Against this, as other writers noted, since The Racto Beef of Death© was admitted, US ractopork and other pork products should be admitted as well. Under the WTO agreements, once ractopamine containing products are admitted, all such products must be admitted. Perhaps the US side is counting on this to force the Ma Administration's hand when it says things should go smoothly.

In any case, whatever happens, the hilarious disconnect between the health claims in the expected public protests over incoming US ractopork and the abounding silence over the healthiness of local pork will no doubt provide much fodder for us post-starved bloggers.

More on Brookings tomorrow....
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