And so I am unhappy to report that the US-Taiwan beef issue continues to vex the relationship. In my more paranoid moments I wonder whether that is its real function -- to provide an excuse for inaction on a number of issues by both sides but especially the US, but as the old saw goes, you should never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. And this issue is really, really stupid. Like the zombie issue it is, it cries out for brains....
The Taipei Times has had a slew of stories on it recently, signaling that it's been a slow news month. Today featured President Ma Ying-jeou vowing to protect public health and food safety....
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday reiterated the government’s open stance on the US beef imports issue and insisted that his administration had not made any promises to the US, pledging not to risk public health over the issue.Yes, our vegetables are coated with chemicals, our water is undrinkable, our pork is an antibiotics manufacturer's display case, and our roads are a white-line nightmare, but by god, the government will fight to keep ractopamine out of imported beef.
Ma said yesterday that Chen and the lawmakers reached a consensus on the issue and that the government would continue to prioritize public health and food safety.
DPP and other opposition lawmakers boycotted the premier's six hour address yesterday until he promised to maintain the ban on US beef until at least June, so we have another four months of this farce. The result of the agreement between the government and the legislature was reported by the China Post:
First, the Executive Yuan would not issue any decree to allow the import of meat containing residual amounts of the leanness-enhancing additive in the near future.Doncha just love (2) above? All the problems that Taiwan has, but our priority is this idiot beef issue.
Second, the Legislative Yuan would make the legal issue concerning the leanness-enhancing additive for livestock the first priority for the Legislature.
Third, the Executive Yuan would abide by the new law passed by the Legislative Yuan.
Even worse, it was DPP and TSU legislators out there protesting. What they should have done was lose, and force the Ma government to make a decision. Since in the end the government will issue regulations and take credit for improved relations with the US, the DPP has nothing to lose by forcing the government to accept the domestic opprobrium. More below....
Meanwhile legislators from the DPP, KMT, and PFP put out seven proposals for dealing with the issue, even though it could be decided by Administrative fiat.
Don Shapiro of the American Chamber of Commerce wrote a couple of weeks ago on the issue, which I duly blogged on. Shapiro observed:
American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei delegation that visited Washington last autumn was still surprised by the vehemence of the criticism of Taiwan it heard from American officials on the subject. One high-level official described Taiwan flatly as “an unreliable trading partner,” for example, while another said the disagreement over beef had “cast a pall” over the entire bilateral relationship. Beef had taken on a symbolic importance far out of proportion to its monetary value of less than 1 percent of U.S. exports to Taiwan.The US position on the beef issue is absurd, but the DPP's is simply self-defeating as Shapiro's observations attest. The pan-Green opposition owns this issue and the US knows it. Clearly beef is important to the US and the DPP really ought to consider catering to its interests if it wants to claim that the DPP is a party that is pro-US and offers a rational alternative to the KMT. Here is a nation that might at some point get its children killed to preserve the freedoms of Taiwanese and yet it won't buy their beef? It's time for the parties in Taiwan to sit down and work out a solution of an acceptable level of ractopamine as Shapiro suggests, and go forward. This issue needs to die ASAP; there are TIFA talks to hold.
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