Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) yesterday confirmed that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would host a banquet with party legislators on Tuesday, but denied that the banquet was scheduled following the legislature’s consensus over a ban on the import of US beef.
Wang said Ma had planned to host the banquet with party legislators as a regular meeting, and the Presidential Office sent out the invitations last Monday.
“The US beef issue is not the purpose of the banquet ... The government will not avoid its obligations. We will take responsibility for improving Taiwan-US relations,” he said.
Last Tuesday, lawmakers from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party reached a consensus 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 would partially overturn the Department of Health’s announcement in October that imports of US bone-in beef and bovine organs would be allowed.
To mend fences with the US government, Ma called a meeting on Wednesday after the Legislative Yuan declined to endorse the protocol relaxing import restrictions.
During the meeting, Ma called for an Executive Yuan delegation to visit Washington to mitigate the fallout.
However, the government on Thursday made an about-face, saying the delegation would be mainly comprised of lawmakers and representatives from consumer groups, with Wu saying it would conduct a fact-finding mission, rather than explaining Taiwan’s stance.
Ma is expected to address the US beef issue during Tuesday’s banquet with party legislators and call for better inter-party communication after KMT’s legislative caucus failed to defend the government’s decision on relaxing regulations on US beef.
It would be the sixth banquet Ma hosted with party legislators to enhance communication with the legislature. However, some party legislators blamed the president and his aides for failing to respect their opinions.
“I doubt that the president has really listened to us and the US beef issue is a good example that the government is too arrogant to respect public opinion,” KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) said.
Meanwhile, the current legislative session, originally slated to go into recess on Friday, will be extended until the following Tuesday.
Noting this, KMT policy committee director Lin Yi-shih (林益世) late last night was quoted by the Central News Agency as saying the banquet may be postponed until next Monday or Tuesday because lawmakers would be busy on Tuesday.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA
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