Rehberg Leads Ongoing Fight Against Unfair Trade Restrictions by Taiwan on U.S. Pork & Beef

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Montana’s Congressman, Denny Rehberg, today joined with Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) in leading a bipartisan group of 68 lawmakers in sending a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Ambassador Ron Kirk objecting to ongoing protectionist trade restrictions by the Taiwanese government, which is costing American beef and pork producers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost export trade. Under pressure from domestic producers, Taiwan has restricted pork and beef products based on the presence of a dietary additive scientifically proven safe and approved by food safety agencies in 26 countries.

“American beef and pork products are the best and safest in the world, period,” said Rehberg, a member of the Congressional Rural Caucus and a fifth generation rancher. “The Taiwanese government is using pseudo-science to duck free trade laws, unfairly penalizing U.S. and Montana producers. We’ve been pushing for a common sense solution on this issue, and I’m encouraged the Taiwanese government is showing signs of movement.  But it’s clear that Taiwan is still trying to play politics with their trade policies and it’s costing jobs here at home.  We’re going to keep fighting until we get that changed.”

At issue is the use of an additive, ractopamine, which improves the feed efficiency and growth rate of hogs and cattle, while increasing the lean carcass percentage. Twenty-six countries’ food safety authorities, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have approved the supplement for domestic and imported beef and pork. Taiwanese officials told the World Trade Organization (WTO) they would remove the barriers to products containing the supplement in 2008, but they have failed to act due to domestic pressure by Taiwanese producers who don’t want to compete legally in the world market.

Last week, the government of Taiwan announced it would consider lifting the import ban on beef with ractopamine under certain levels, but the concession would not apply to pork and would still allow Taiwan to restrict the import of beef using other means.  Rehberg, Kind, and 66 additional U.S. lawmakers contacted U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk, and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to object to the inequitable treatment by Taiwan, and to pressure the government  “ … to allow science, not politics, to determine import standards for U.S. pork and beef products.” (Letter below)

Rehberg’s efforts have been lauded by the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA).  “We appreciate Denny reliably standing up for Montana’s ranchers,” said Errol Rice, MSGA Executive Vice President. “As a rancher himself, and long-time supporter of the Stockgrowers, Denny understands the value of opening up global markets for Montana beef and the need to make sure that our beef is treated fairly by foreign governments.”

The Montana Pork Producers Council (MPPC) echoed those sentiments: “For a healthy agriculture industry, we need our export markets wide open and observant of the scientific standards set forth in trade agreements between countries,” said MPPC Executive Director Anne Miller.  “A wavering trade partner has a detrimental effect on Montana’s economy. Our pork producers applaud Rep. Rehberg for driving this point home.”

“The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) joins Congress in encouraging the U.S. Government to work with Taiwan to establish a trade relationship based on sound science and market demand, not arbitrary guidelines,” said NCBA President  J.D. Alexander.  “Taiwan has been a good market for U.S. beef but Taiwan’s current zero-policy standard lacks scientific standing and is out of step with accepted international standards. NCBA encourages swift resolution of this issue so American producers can continue providing Taiwan’s consumers with safe and delicious beef.”

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has estimated the trade restrictions have cost U.S. Pork Producers $240 million in lost exports. They have thrown their support behind Rehberg’s efforts to pressure the Taiwanese government.   NPPC President R.C. Hunt said: “The National Pork Producers Council applauds Congressman Rehberg for his continued efforts in urging countries to base decisions on science, and not politics.”

The full letter to Ambassador Kirk and Secretary Vilsack is below.

Dear Ambassador Kirk and Secretary Vilsack:

We are writing to you with strong concern regarding the non-science-based restrictions that Taiwan has placed on beef and pork imports from the United States.  For over a year, Taiwan has unjustifiably increased inspections of US beef and pork products in search of residues from feed additives. These inspections, which are not based on scientific data or standards, have tainted consumer perception of US beef and pork products in Taiwan and have caused a significant decline in exports. We are concerned that if this issue remains unresolved, it will continue to have negative consequences for our constituents who work in the beef and pork industries.

We are pleased with President Ma’s recent announcement that resolving these outstanding issues is a priority for his government, and we encourage you to work with Taiwan to find a science-based, market-driven resolution to this issue. The removal of non-tariff trade barriers like this will allow our producers to continue providing safe beef and pork products to consumers in Taiwan without interference from domestic political factions. However, further toleration of Taiwan’s unnecessary restrictions sets a dangerous precedent for the mistreatment of US products and undermines our efforts to establish objective, internationally-recognized science-based standards for US exports. We encourage Taiwan to allow science, not politics, to determine import standards for US pork and beef products.

We appreciate your leadership on this issue, and urge you to continue to stand up for America’s beef and pork producers against protectionist trade policies.  We look forward to working with you to resolve this issue and restoring a strong trade relationship with Taiwan.

Sincerely,

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