Tue, Mar 20, 2012 - Page 3 News List

AIT stepping up its beef lobby efforts: legislators

By Shih Hsiao-kuang  /  Staff Reporter

Stepping up efforts to pressure Taiwan into lifting a ban on US beef imports containing ractopamine, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) is allegedly mounting a new wave of lobbying in the legislature.

In an attempt to push through a full-scale removal of the import ban on US beef containing the feed additive ractopamine, AIT officials have constantly lobbied government officials from relevant administrative departments, with the issuances of a number of official statements calling for continued progress on the US beef ban.

Amid discontent with the Taiwanese government’s plan to only allow conditional imports of US beef containing ractopamine residue, the AIT has allegedly made felt its political clout in the legislature.

During a meeting with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) on Wednesday, a delegation of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Taipei was said to have expressed a desire to straighten out the “stumbling block” that had hindered the bilateral trade relationship of the two countries, according to sources.

Meanwhile, the AIT’s lobbyists have been eager to establish contacts with lawmakers sitting on the Economic Affairs Committee and Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee, which are mainly in charge of the US beef issue, offering them invitations to meet.

According to a legislator, invitations to meet with lawmakers are generally made by members of AmCham or foreign associations.

It is rare for an official organization, such as the AIT — which could embody the US government — to request such meetings, the legislator said, especially amid mounting allegations that the US is pressuring Taiwan into signing on to the US beef imports containing ractopamine.

A Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmaker, a committee convener who asked not to be identified, confirmed the alleged meeting requests by the AIT, saying the de facto US embassy had made a telephone call to his office to schedule a visit.

However, the KMT legislator declined to reveal any information with regard to the content and purpose of the call.

Responding to questions from the media on whether the AIT had made any contact, KMT Legislator Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆), convener of the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee who proposed an amendment to clearly label US beef imports in the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法), neither confirmed nor denied the question.

AIT officials visiting lawmakers are actually common, Tsai said, adding that it was trifling to verify the allegation since the main duty of every lawmaker was to safeguard the public.

Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇), another convener on the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee, denied she had received any invitations from the AIT.

“They [AIT] probably have already given up on me,” she added.

Tsai said that in a bid to generate higher export revenues for the US, the AIT would most likely seek any possible solutions for the removal of the “stumbling blocks” posed by the Legislative Yuan.

However, Tsai said that in light of the political fallout posed by leaked US diplomatic cables last year, in which WikiLeaks released several confidential conversations between AIT officials and various Taiwanese officials, lawmakers would be more discreet when interacting with the AIT this time.

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