An extra legislative session is scheduled to be held tomorrow and Thursday to discuss a bill on relaxing a ban on the leanness-enhancing cattle feed additive ractopamine, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said yesterday.
The decision was made during interparty negotiations in the morning, less than three days after the regular session ended on Friday as the opposition concluded a five-day sit-in to block proceedings.
Speaking after the negotiations, Wang urged the opposition to respect the democratic mechanism and not to block the extra session with a new round of protests.
The opposition — the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) and the People First Party (PFP) — opposed the extra session and urged President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to postpone a final decision to relax the ban until after the Codex Alimentarius Commission meets early next month.
The Codex, established by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the WHO, is scheduled to discuss ractopamine-related issues at the meeting.
DPP caucus convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said Ma’s insistence on resolving the issue hastily was suspicious.
“Ma could have promised the US to lift the ban before the Codex meeting,” Ker said.
PFP caucus whip Thomas Lee (李桐豪) said Ma “had abused the spirit of extra sessions, which according to the Constitution cannot be held unless major policies and issues are at stake.”
During Ma’s first presidential term, five extra legislative sessions were called, Lee said, adding that the controversy over beef containing ractopamine residues “is not an urgent issue.”
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus appeared determined to pass the bill after Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, piled on the pressure with another pitch on Sunday night, saying that resolving the issue would be crucial for Taiwan’s future, even though the party’s caucus has said it is reluctant to resort to physical confrontation on the legislative floor.
Ma met with high-ranking officials, including Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) and Wang, on Sunday night and afterwards Executive Yuan spokesperson Hu Yu-wei (胡幼偉) quoted Ma as saying that lawmakers should “adopt a rational attitude and follow the principles of democracy” when they discuss the bill during the provisional session.
The executive branch will not exercise executive power to resolve the beef dispute for now, Hu said.
KMT caucus whip Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) said yesterday that the proposed amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) would be the only item on the agenda of the extra session since it is the only roadblock to closer Taiwan-US trade.
The KMT caucus plans to include both public health and national interest in its deliberation, Lin said, adding that his caucus intends to propose three additional resolutions — differentiation of the safety standards for beef and pork products; reinstatement of the ban on beef imports in case of proven public health concerns about ractopamine; and the government’s pledge to seek compensation for anyone whose health is harmed by ingesting ractopamine.
“The opposition parties are only stalling because they know very well that the chance of reaching a consensus on ractopamine MRLs [minimum residue levels] in the Codex meeting is very slim,” Lin said.