Following a six-hour boycott by opposition lawmakers yesterday, Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) was finally able to deliver his policy address to the legislature after he promised that his administration would not lift a ban on US beef containing traces of the feed additive ractopamine without the legislature's consent before June.
Based on a resolution approved by the legislature, the government would not lift the ban in the near future, Chen said late in the afternoon after a tumultuous day in the legislature.
Government Information Office Minister Philip Yang (楊永明) said the time frame, which was not written into the resolution, was understood to mean “in three or four months,” before the legislative session enters a recess at the end of May or June.
The legislature was scheduled to begin the first day of the new session at 10am yesterday, with Chen delivering his policy address, but he was unable to make it to the podium until about 4pm.
Immediately after Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) invited Chen to deliver his address, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) lawmakers occupied the podium with banners and posters protesting against the government’s attempts to ease its zero-tolerance policy on ractopamine in beef.
The move followed an ultimatum by the TSU issued on Wednesday giving Chen 48 hours to pledge he would not allow meat imports containing ractopamine or it would stage a boycott.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers countered by raising posters asking the opposition to refrain from engaging in an “irrational boycott,” while some remained seated in their chairs and watched while both sides chanted slogans at each other.
Amid the commotion, Wang announced that the four legislative caucuses would enter negotiations in an attempt to reach a consensus.
During the negotiations, the DPP and the TSU reiterated their opposition to the loosening of the restrictions on ractopamine, with the DPP demanding that the Executive Yuan pledge not to lift the ban by executive order and the TSU asking Chen to make a pledge not to allow meat imports containing the additive.
KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) also proposed an amendment to prohibit the use of ractopamine on Taiwanese livestock and to require that imports of meat containing residues of the substance carry warning labels that explain the potential harmful effects of ractopamine on human health.
A consensus was reached after about six hours of negotiations to resolve the deadlock, which, had it failed, could have created a precedent by making it the first time in the nation’s history that the premier had failed to present his policy address to the legislature by the end of February, as required by the Act Governing Legislators’ Exercise of Power (立法院職權行使法).
According to the conclusions reached, the Executive Yuan has promised it will not allow imports of meat containing ractopamine in the near future; lawmakers have agreed to write into the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) rules governing the use of ractopamine in meat and to give the matter priority; and the Executive Yuan has to accept the law after it is revised.
“It’s a pity it took a whole day to reach a consensus on what is a humble and simple demand, but justice has been served,” DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) told a press conference after the negotiations. “The DPP’s position remains the same. We oppose all meat imports that contain ractopamine.”