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Letter to Ma Ying-jeou, President of Taiwan

Senator Chuck Grassley today joined his colleagues in urging Taiwan to end the restrictions the country has placed on beef with trace amounts of ractopamine, an additive used in animal feed. Ractopamine has been approved for use in the United States since 1999 and is registered for use in dozens of countries.

"Taiwan's continued insistence on engaging in repeated abuses of food safety requirements designed to exclude U.S. agricultural imports from its market is troubling. It's time Taiwan immediately remove all barriers to our farm products," Grassley said. "Taiwan must treat U.S. products fairly, in accordance with scientific evidence, and in keeping with its trade obligations, if it expects to maintain its status as a strong economic partner with the United States."

Taiwan is an important export market for Iowa livestock products. According to the International Trade Administration, Iowa livestock producers last year exported nearly $1.5 billion worth of livestock and livestock products to Taiwan.

The letter was also signed by Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Pat Roberts. Other senators signing the letter are: U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Mike Crapo (R-ID), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Boozman (R-AR), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Roy Blunt (R-MO), James Risch (R-ID), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

Here is a copy of the text of the letter.

Dear President Ma:

We write with strong concern regarding recent efforts that restrict U.S. beef exports in Taiwan.
This past January, the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration began rejecting shipments of U.S. beef based on trace amounts of ractopamine, a feed additive. In addition, Taiwanese officials then pulled related products from grocery shelves. These actions created an unnecessarily volatile trading environment for U.S. exporters. U.S. exporters are reluctant to ship product to Taiwan given the uncertainty presented by the amplified testing regime.

The use of ractopamine is well recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as safe. In addition, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), which is jointly administered by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), recommended the adoption of maximum residue levels (MRL) for the use of ractopamine in beef and pork. Taiwan's current zero-tolerance policy lacks scientific standing and is out of step with the recommended JECFA standards. Further, the zero-tolerance policy is inconsistent with Taiwan's own risk assessment in 2007, which found that ractopamine was safe for use.

We appreciate your commitment to finding a solution to the unfair restrictions and are pleased to hear that a minister without portfolio was appointed to lead a high-level task force to address this issue. We are also pleased to learn of the March 25th symposium hosted by the Chinese Society of Veterinary Scientists. We view this event, which provided a forum for credible experts to provide scientific evidence on the safety of ractopamine to the public in Taiwan, as a critical step towards bringing stakeholders together to better understand the issue. We urge you to build on these findings and work immediately and diligently towards implementing an MRL and not to delay until the Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in July 2011. In addition, we encourage Taiwan to implement appropriate inspection and quarantine procedures in a consistent manner to provide predictability on the part of the importer and exporter.

It is our hope that these continued misperceptions concerning the safety of U.S. beef can be resolved quickly in order to resume a stable and predictable trading environment for our U.S. beef industry and dependable supply for Taiwanese consumers. As trading partners and fellow members of the World Trade Organization, we must work to ensure that our trade decisions are grounded on scientific standards and not misinformation and fear. We look forward to working with you to resolve this issue in a timely manner.

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