Fri, Jan 01, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Premier in U-turn on beef delegation

VACILLATING VISIT Wu Den-yih said the president’s plan to send a delegation to Washington made up of officials from the Executive Yuan had been scrapped

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The government yesterday called off a plan to send a delegation made up of members of the Executive Yuan to Washington to contain the fallout from the legislature’s move to bar imports of certain US beef products.

Instead, a delegation mainly made up of lawmakers and representatives from non-governmental organizations would head to the US on a fact-finding trip, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said at a press conference yesterday.

It was an about-face after the Presidential Office on Wednesday relayed a message from President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) instructing officials from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Department of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to form a delegation to go to the US “no later than next week” to explain Taiwan’s stance on the beef issue to the US government.

Ma also wanted the government to arrange a trip to the US for lawmakers and representatives from civil and consumer groups who have concerns over the safety of US beef products to gain a better understanding of the beef industry.

The instructions followed a high-level meeting convened by Ma on fence-mending efforts after the legislature declined on Tuesday to endorse the protocol that Taiwan signed with the US in October that lifted the previous ban on US bone-in beef and various other beef products.

Instead, lawmakers from both the governing and opposition parties reached a consensus to vote through an amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) on Tuesday that will ban imports of “risky” beef products from areas where cases of mad cow disease have been recorded in the previous decade.

The legislative move has drawn a rebuke from Washington, which expressed dismay, believing the proposed amendment contravenes the protocol.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) yesterday denied the government had canceled the executive branch’s trip to the US because the US had closed the door on negotiations with Taiwan following its statement issued on Wednesday that warned against the legislature’s plan to statutorily ban certain US beef products.

“There is no emergency” to send government officials to the US as the country’s representative in the US, Jason Yuan (袁健生), talked to the US executive branch on Wednesday and it went “smoothly,” Yang told reporters at the same press conference Wu attended.

The US Trade Representative Office and its related administrative departments had understood the efforts the Ma government undertook on the matter, Taiwanese public opinion and the legislature’s concerns on the issue, Yang said.

“If there is any need in the future, we will send officials at the appropriate level to communicate with the US,” Wu said.

Regarding the government’s response to the US’ dissatisfaction with Taiwan, Yang said the government would urge the US to “accept the result agreed by lawmakers across party lines,” “not to overreact” and “not to let other non-trade or economic issues get involved.”

The government would also urge the US to express its goodwill toward Taiwan on issues such as the resumption of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks, arms sales, exchanges between high-level officials of the two countries and its visa-waiver program to ensure the beef issue did not have a negative impact on Taiwan-US relations, Yang said.

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