An ad hoc committee will consider the possibility of pork imports from the US after officials there urged Thailand to open its market, says Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn.
Although the issue was not raised during the official visit of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to the US this month, Gen Prayut has ordered the Agriculture Ministry to lead a study of the impact of permitting imports of pork and other meat products from the US.
Other agencies to work on the committee are the Trade Negotiation Department, the Foreign Trade Department, the Livestock Department and the Public Health Ministry, Ms Apiradi said.
Thailand bans imports of US pork and chicken for fear of contamination with ractopamine, a feed additive widely used in the US.
Ractopamine increases protein synthesis, making animals more muscular, reducing the fat content of the meat and raising the profit per animal.
But ractopamine has some negative effects on human health, and some 160 nations -- including Thailand, China, Russia and EU countries -- ban or restrict its use in pork production because of safety concerns.
The US has been pushing harder for Thailand to open its market to imported pork and chicken after a ban going on six years.
Ms Apiradi said the committee will consist of representatives from both Thailand and the US to study the possible impact in all aspects before making a final decision.
The US has also requested a list of all pork and chicken exporters to Thailand for further investigation of contamination with ractopamine and bird flu.
The rationale is to ease tracing the origin of contaminants found in imported meat.
A lifting of the import ban is strongly opposed by the Thai Swine Raisers Association, which submitted a letter to government agencies yesterday for the second time in a year.
The group demanded that the government keep the ban on US pork and chicken imports in place.