Distributive policy

Taiwan’s ractopamine pork import policy is under review by the Constitutional Court

Taiwan’s Constitutional Court is currently hearing a dispute in which the Court was asked to consider whether local governments have the power to impose stricter restrictions on the importation of pork products containing ractopamine, the restrictions of which run counter to the central government’s pork import policy.

On February 22, 2022, the Court held oral argument and heard arguments from the central government and local governments. The Court’s upcoming decision on this dispute will have a significant impact on Taiwan’s future import policy.

These disputes arose when Taiwanese President Ing-wen Tsai officially announced that the government planned to lift its import restrictions on pork products containing ractopamine on August 28, 2020. Subsequently, on September 7 2020, the Taiwan Council of Agriculture (TCA) under the authority of the Executive Yuan announced that from January 1, 2021, import bans on pork and beef products containing ractopamine will be lifted .

According to its announcement, “β-agonists are a drug that are prohibited from manufacture, distribution, import, export, sale or display in the domestic market; however, the said prohibition does not apply to imported pork or beef products. In addition, the TCA has also amended the “Standards for Veterinary Drug Residues in Foods” to include residual tolerance for ractopamine in certain pork products, amendments which will also come into effect on January 1, 2021.

Contrary to central government policy, several local governments have adopted measures that place restrictions on pork products containing ractopamine, including orders prohibiting the distribution or sale of such products in their governance area. However, the Executive Yuan later declared that these local ordinances contradicted the law governing food safety and sanitation and were therefore null and void. Local governments therefore took this case to the Constitutional Court of Taiwan, asking the court to decide whether the central government has the power to invalidate local government ordinances that are inconsistent with central government policy. In the Court’s next decision, the Court will consider the following issues:

First, the cases raised the issue of whether the right to establish standards regulating permitted tolerance levels for pesticide or veterinary drug residues and for nuclear fallout or radioactivity is exclusively granted to central government authority or, alternatively, whether local governments may adopt different standards from those established by central government, for purposes such as protecting the welfare of local residences or protecting the interests of local industries.

Second, according to Article 107 of Taiwan’s Constitution, the central government has the power to legislate and administer “foreign trade policies.” Questions in this regard involve questions as to whether the relaxation of restrictions on imports of pork products by the central government is related to “foreign trade” and whether the restrictions imposed by local governments are inconsistent with the obligation to Taiwan under the relevant Trade Organization agreements. In other words, in cases where the central government has decided to relax the import rules for pork products containing β-agonists (ractopamine), if a local government order constitutes a violation of the aforementioned exclusive power of the central government.

The Court is expected to render its decision in the coming months. The decision will certainly have a significant impact on Taiwan’s future import policies. In particular, if the Court in this decision sided with local governments, holding that local governments have the power to establish their own local import restrictions, it is expected that similar restrictions will soon be in effect. place to resist importing Japanese food affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.