Thu, Dec 31, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Ma sending delegations to Washington

BRACING FOR IMPACT The Presidential Office is concerned with fencemending after a legislative agreement to restrict US beef imports drew a strong protest from the US

By Ko Shu-ling and Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTERS

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) instructed the executive and legislative branches yesterday to send representatives to Washington to mend fences after the US government warned that legislative moves to bar imports of some US beef and beef products would “constitute a unilateral abrogation of a bilateral agreement concluded in good faith” just two months ago.

On Tuesday, lawmakers from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) agreed that no ground beef or bovine offal from the US would be allowed to enter Taiwan. The DPP caucus accepted a revised KMT motion to amend the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) that would ban imports of “risky” substances, including brains, eyes, spinal cords, intestines, ground beef and other related beef products from areas in which mad cow disease has been reported in the past decade.

The decision will be finalized in a vote scheduled for Tuesday. Passage of the amendment will partially overturn the Department of Health’s (DOH) announcement in October that imports of US beef on the bone and bovine organs would be allowed.

The legislative move has caused dismay in Washington.

“We are deeply concerned and disappointed by reports that Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan has taken initial steps toward the passage of an amendment to the Food Sanitation Act that contains provisions that would unjustifiably bar the import of certain US beef and beef products,” the US Trade Representative office and the Department of Agriculture said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

“The proposed amendment’s provisions do not have a basis in science or fact and thus in no way serve to protect Taiwan’s food supply,” the statement said.

“If passed, this amendment would represent a new barrier to US beef exports to Taiwan, and would constitute a unilateral abrogation of a bilateral agreement concluded in good faith by the United States with Taiwan just two months ago,” the statement said.

“The Taiwan authorities should consider very carefully the impact that passage of the amendment in its current form would have on Taiwan’s reputation as a reliable trading partner and responsible member of the international community,” it said. “Science and facts — not politics or hyperbole — should govern our trade and economic relations.”

“This is a serious matter that concerns us greatly and we are monitoring the legislative process very closely,” the statement said.

Ma held a meeting yesterday to discuss how the executive and legislative branches should respond; attendees included Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), National Security Council (NSC) Secretary-General Su Chi (蘇起), Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添), KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) and DOH officials.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) told a press conference after the closed-door meeting that the Presidential Office respected the legislative consensus. The office also acknowledged that both the government and the legislature would have to shoulder responsibility for the issue.

The Presidential Office also supported an amendment that would allow the import of bone-in beef from cattle younger than 30 months old, Wang said.

In a bid to mend ties with Washington, Wang said Ma instructed the executive branch to send a delegation to the US next week to explain the situation in the hopes of minimizing damage to bilateral relations.

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