Remarks by Scott S. Sindelar, Chief of Agricultural Affairs Section, AIT Press Briefing
BG0526E | Date: 2005-12-12
"Greater variety, lower prices, consistent and dependable supplies, and higher quality are the hallmarks of the global trading environment in food and agricultural products. Taiwan consumers and Taiwan industry benefit from a liberal trading environment in food and agriculture products. Taiwan, like the United States, has a significant interest in promoting improved market access for food and agricultural products."
My name is Scott Sindelar and I am the Chief of the Agricultural Affairs Section at the American Institute in Taiwan. The Agricultural Affairs Section represents the missions and programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is composed of two offices: the Agricultural Affairs Office and the Agricultural Trade Office. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently assigned an officer from our Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to AIT. This new office will manage the very important technical issues related to plant and animal health.
An important component of my mission is to encourage and support the growth of agricultural trade between the United States and Taiwan and to reduce or eliminate barriers to trade in agricultural and food products.
As we all know, Taiwan, with its relatively large population concentrated in a small geographic area, is dependent on trade for its survival. In agriculture, it is essential that Taiwan be a global trader. Taiwan's consumers, Taiwan's livestock farmers, and Taiwan's food processing industry rely on the international market and suppliers from around the world to satisfy their demands for raw materials and finished products.
According to U.S. data, bilateral agricultural trade between the United States and Taiwan totals about $2.5 billion each year. Currently, the trade balance is heavily in favor of the United States, which exports about $2.1 billion worth of agriculture and food products to Taiwan annually. More than half of Taiwan's agricultural imports from the United States are raw materials, like corn, wheat, and soybeans that are critical inputs for Taiwan's livestock and food processing industries. Other U.S. food exports, like fresh fruit, nuts, wine and other consumer-ready products enrich the daily lives of Taiwan consumers.
This is not to say that Taiwan does not have opportunities to improve its own agricultural economy by exporting to the world market. According to Taiwan statistics, in 2004, Taiwan exported about $4.3 billion worth of food and agricultural products to countries around the world. More than 10 percent of that total, about $460 million, went to the United States. We are Taiwan's third largest market for its food and agricultural exports.
Among the many products for which Taiwan has potential competitive advantages, items like tropical fruits and flowers stand out. Both of these high-value agricultural products are in great demand in the United States and elsewhere and are the kind of opportunities that are available in a global trading environment. Taking advantage of these opportunities will strengthen Taiwan's agricultural economy.
Greater variety, lower prices, consistent and dependable supplies, and higher quality are the hallmarks of the global trading environment in food and agricultural products. Taiwan consumers and Taiwan industry benefit from a liberal trading environment in food and agriculture products. Taiwan, like the United States, has a significant interest in promoting improved market access for food and agricultural products.
But our agricultural relationship goes beyond trade. Last month, for example, the United States and Taiwan held a symposium recognizing 20-years of a cooperative relationship in agriculture science research that looks at new technologies, including agricultural biotechnology, which will benefit both sides.
It is not unusual for good friends to have disagreements and, while the agricultural relationship between the United States and Taiwan is quite strong, there are areas where we face problems. We are quite disappointed that Taiwan has not yet resumed imports of U.S. beef despite the overwhelming evidence that U.S. beef is safe. We are also disappointed that Taiwan has allied itself with the G-10 in the WTO, a group that actively opposes market access liberalization in agriculture. This position is inconsistent with Taiwan's support for liberalized trade in manufactured goods and services, and is inconsistent with the benefits Taiwan has received from free trade.
I am optimistic that the strength of our relationship will allow us to manage these disagreements. Both the United States and Taiwan have too much at stake and must remain committed to improving market access for agricultural and food products.