TAIPEI -- Taiwan's parliament on Thursday passed a bill to allow imports of U.S. pork containing ractopamine residue from January, a move that paves the way to forging closer ties with Washington ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden as president.
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party leveraged its majority in the Legislative Yuan to approve administrative orders that allows the import of pork containing the leanness-enhancing additive banned in the European Union and China.
Imports of American pork have long been a hurdle to a possible free trade agreement with the U.S. In 2012, the administration of then President Ma Ing-jeou failed in an attempt to lift the ban in the face of public and opposition pressure.
President Tsai Ing-wen announced on Aug. 28 that Taiwan would ease restrictions on imports of US pork containing ractopamine. The move came shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump's health secretary Alex Azar visited Taipei -- the highest level visit by a U.S. cabinet member since 1979. Tsai said at the time that Taiwan needs to make this decision to "capture the great opportunity of supply chain restructuring in the post-coronavirus era."
Taiwan's efforts to draw closer to the U.S. have been attacked by China, which views the island as part of its territory and objects to any formal engagement by Taiwan with other countries.
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden said in a recent interview that the U.S. would not sign a trade deal with any country before sorting out its own competitiveness, sparking concerns there will be no trade deal with Taiwan soon.
The Tsai administration's move has also sparked domestic criticism, as her Democratic Progressive Party has protested in the past against the opposition Kuomintang's plan to ban American pork imports.
KMT lawmakers have attacked the DPP over the issue, and in early December threw pork intestines and pig skins in the legislative chamber to express their anger.