Sat, Mar 10, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Sean Chen questioned on handling of US beef issue

MEATY TOPIC:A legislator said a poll showed support for a zero-tolerance stance on ractopamine was bipartisan, with 77.6 percent of respondents in favor of such a law

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

As he was grilled by lawmakers yesterday over his handling and the US’ role in the beef import ban controversy, Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) said he had not reneged on his pledge to the Legislative Yuan regarding ractopamine.

The Executive Yuan’s announcement on Monday regarding the feed additive was to explain “the direction of a planned policy” rather than a predetermined policy, Chen told lawmakers.

Chen was referring to a statement released on Monday night that said the government was leaning toward the conditional lifting of a ban on the import of US beef containing residues of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine on the principles of “allowing a safe level of ractopamine in beef, separating the permits for importing beef and pork, clearly labeling beef imports and excluding imports of internal organs.”

Saying that the Executive Yuan would collaborate with the legislature on the necessary amendments, Chen said he had not betrayed a pledge made to the legislature on Feb. 24 in which he promised not to unilaterally lift the ban with an executive order before the end of the current legislative session.

Several lawmakers questioned Chen’s integrity and his ability to safeguard public health and called for the ban on US pork imports containing the additive to be maintained once the ban on US beef has been lifted.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chen Ken-te (陳根德) said the administrative branch had turned a blind eye to the more than 80 percent of Taiwanese who were opposed to the lifting of the ban.

He added that the decision had been rushed and KMT lawmakers not properly consulted.

While Sean Chen denied that any “pressure and threats” had come from Washington, lawmakers said they were unimpressed by the US’ use of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks and the visa-waiver program as bait and that they were disappointed by Taipei’s weakness in bowing to US pressure.

KMT legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said he was uncomfortable with comments made by American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director William Stanton in an interview published on Thursday in which the diplomat said US beef had been a “stumbling block” to TIFA negotiations and that Washington had not bullied Taiwan on the issue.

“Making such comments at a time when Taiwan is trying to resolve the dispute doesn’t help,” Lai said.

The government should try to deal with the issue under the WTO framework instead of only talking to the US, DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) and KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) both said.

Lawmakers from across party lines had submitted 14 different ractopamine-related proposals to amend the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) as of yesterday, with almost all of them opposed to lifting the ban on the feed additive. The proposals are scheduled to be reviewed in the legislature on Wednesday.

In related news, an opinion poll conducted by the Taiwan Thinktank showed that 77.6 percent of respondents agreed that a zero-tolerance stance on ractopamine should be made law, DPP Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said.

The support for such a move is bipartisan, Lin added, with 78.8 percent of pan-blue supporters and 86 percent of pan-green supporters favoring such legislation.

The survey collected 1,102 samples between Wednesday and Thursday and had a margin of error of 3 percent.

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