Quote of the day: A friend passed this one around while discussing the Baucus appointment as Ambassador to China. BR Myers:
"The question of where Europe ends and Asia begins has troubled many people over the years, but here's a rule of thumb: if someone can pose as an expert on the country in question without knowledge of the relevant language, it's part of Asia. "Dem Senator Max Baucus to become the new ambassador to China? The reason is obvious: it goes moo and then gets injected with drugs before being killed and chopped up for sale to Asia. Baucus was at the forefront of efforts to get Taiwan to accept ractobeef (for example). He's from the great state of Montana, noted for its wide open spaces filled with cattle, who outnumber Montana residents by a three to one margin, 2.6 million of the four legged future exports. Commonwealth ran a piece on Baucus last year:
Senator Baucus, 71, is none other than the "commander-in-chief of American beef" contributing to the maelstrom that is currently sweeping Taiwanese society. A Democrat from Montana, Senator Baucus has lived in Washington, D.C. for 34 years. His seniority makes him the third most powerful man in the Senate, behind only the heads of the Democratic and Republican party caucuses.Pretty obvious what is going to happen with China: the US is going to try to crack that market. This analysis observes:
Senator Baucus is sure to be prominent wherever U.S. beef is promoted internationally. Despite the opposition of local farmers, no matter how numerous, Japan, South Korea, Chile, Columbia and Panama have all caved in to trade pressure from the U.S. and opened their markets to American beef.
Naturally, Baucus is an instrumental figure at U.S. trade negotiations around the world. While in China imploring Vice Premier Wang Zhishan to allow the renminbi currency to appreciate, the Senator took advantage of the occasion to pressure the Chinese government to open its market to U.S. beef.
While a limited number of countries including Australia, New Zealand and Uruguay have formal access to China, ‘front door’ trade is not the only way into the market. Official import volumes do not reflect other beef imports making their way into the country via the ‘grey channels’, which consist mostly of uncertain volumes of buffalo exports from India that are imported by Vietnam and Hong Kong, then re-exported into China.Right. The US is clashing with China on any number of fronts, the relationship is fraught, war is looming, and what kind of ambassador do we get? A single minded promoter of beef interests! *sigh* Taiwannews says he's been "deepening" the US-China relationship for two decades... does Baucus speak Chinese? Nope. Both the WaPo and Taiwannews pieces point out that appointing Baucus solves some domestic Congressional issues for the Administration. CSM points out that Baucus has been interested in China for years:
Despite US beef also entering China via grey channels, ongoing trade restrictions limit the competiveness of US exports including the ban of growth promotant – ractopomine – and BSE disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or ‘mad cow disease’) history.
Lampton says he got the impression from the informal conversations on China that Baucus was interested in expanding his knowledge of Asia as other senators “from the agricultural states between the Appalachians and the Rockies” had done before him.Mansfield was seen in many quarters as too sympathetic to the Japanese... let's hope Baucus gets good advice.
Two examples are Jim Sasser, the former Tennessee Democratic senator who served as ambassador to China in the late 1990s, and Mike Mansfield, the Montana Democrat who was the longest-serving US ambassador to Japan but who actually started his lifelong Asia focus as a result of a short stint as a Marine in China.
“It was clear from those [Senate] meetings that [Baucus] saw Mansfield as a great statesman,” Lampton says, “and I think he saw that as the kind of role he’d like to play.”
Meanwhile, US beef is once again surging into the Taiwan market. Although the ractobeef controversy knocked beef exports to Taiwan back, US marketers say they are recovering ground lost to Australia and New Zealand:
This year, U.S. beef has made great strides in regaining lost market share in Taiwan. Through the first nine months of 2013, sales of U.S. beef have grown nearly 214 percent in value to $199 million, taking 41 percent market share versus 34 percent for Australia and 20 percent for New Zealand.I seldom eat beef in Taiwan; you can't know what you're getting.
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