The Presidential Office yesterday dismissed allegations that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had promised Washington he would handle the US beef issue after his re-election, and insisted that there was no timetable in dealing with the issue.
Ma, during a meeting with American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt on Wednesday, promised the new Cabinet would start discussions on the issue of beef imports after it is sworn in on Monday. He later instructed the Council of Agriculture, the Department of Health and the Ministry of Economic Affairs to deliberate on the issue as soon as possible.
The reason behind the administration’s speeding up talks on the issue is that Ma had promised the AIT he would prioritize the US beef imports issue during a Jan. 15 meeting with former AIT director Douglas Paal, according to a report in the Chinese-language China Times yesterday. The paper claimed Ma planned to facilitate the handling of the issue after his re-election.
Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi (范姜泰基) denied the allegations, and said Ma did not make any promises on the issue when meeting with US officials.
“President Ma is taking the issue seriously. Handling the issue requires science and experience as a basis. There are no premises or timetable on the issue before a consensus can be reached,” he said.
During the meeting with Paal, Ma said he expected bilateral Taiwan-US relations to continue to develop during his second term, and said that over the next four years he would solve the problem of US beef imports, push the purchase of F-16C/D jets from the US and seek to resume talks on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), Fan Chiang said.
Ma told Burghardt on Wednesday that the new Cabinet would address the US beef issue. No promises were made on the details, including whether the government might lift the ban on beef that has ractopamine residues, a controversial feed additive to enhance lean meat.
“Public health and international relations will be two key factors in the government’s handling of the issue of US beef imports,” Ma said at the time.