The abrupt postponement of a visit to Taipei by US Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sanchez that had been scheduled for tomorrow left the government baffled, but officials in Taipei said yesterday that they believed it was not a move by the US to ratchet up pressure on Taiwan over imports of US beef containing the feed additive ractopamine.
“We do not know the exact reason why the visit was canceled and wish the US would offer us a clear explanation,” Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) told lawmakers during the legislative question-and-answer session.
Chen was bombarded by a barrage of questions on the matter from lawmakers across party lines, amid media reports that quoted anonymous officials saying it was a “reasonable guess” that the US made the gesture to press the government to lift the ban on ractopamine in beef imported from the US.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) said the comments that linked the shelved visit to the beef issue were “speculation made by the media and some quarters,” adding that the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) had given no such impression.
“There has been no mention of the US beef issue in our bilateral discussions with the US regarding Sanchez rescheduling his visit,” Yang said.
Dissatisfied with those answers, People First Party Legislator Thomas Lee (李桐豪) said that “every citizen of the Republic of China knew the visit was postponed because of the beef issue, except government officials.”
In response, Yang said: “We do not rule out any reason, and we do not speculate.”
The AIT announced on Thursday evening that Sanchez would postpone his planned visit to Taiwan from tomorrow to Tuesday because of “unforeseen circumstances.”
Sanchez was in Japan on Thursday and yesterday on a planned three-day visit, the first leg of his scheduled week-long tour in Asia to promote US exports and strengthen economic ties across the Asia-Pacific region.
The AIT offered no further details about the visit yesterday.
AIT spokesperson Sheila Paskman said the AIT did not receive any further information from Washington on the reason for the postponement other than “unforeseen circumstances.”
“We are currently looking at other possible dates for a visit [by Sanchez,] but there is nothing concrete at this point,” she said.
Paskman said she objected to suggestions that the US was “pushing” Taiwan to lift its ban on imports of US beef containing ractopamine.
“We are not pushing anybody. What we are pushing, what we would like to see is that rather than making emotional decisions that are not based on good science, we hope that everyone would look at the scientific evidence and come to conclusions based on the actual science situation,” she said.
Yang said the postponement of Sanchez’s visit did not bring more pressure on Taiwan to resolve the trade dispute with the US.
“There have been effective channels for the US and Taiwan to discuss the beef issue. The issue was not a subject of discussion in the first place when Sanchez’s visit was scheduled. Furthermore, [the US] knows well that discussion about scientific and professional aspects of the issue is going on within the government,” Yang said.
Meanwhile, the legislature yesterday moved a step forward procedurally to regulate the use of ractopamine in the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) as the amendments were referred by the plenary session to the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee for review.