Cross-party negotiations for an extra legislative session are scheduled for today as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) aims to resolve the long-stalled US beef dispute quickly, while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-led opposition is determined to block the move, even if it means launching another round of protests.
The first session of the eighth Legislative Yuan closed on Friday after the DPP’s five-day filibuster, which occupied the podium and paralyzed the plenary, stopping the KMT from putting the amendment on the relaxation of the ban on US beef imports containing ractopamine residue to a vote.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) is scheduled to convene cross-party negotiations today on whether and when to hold an extra session. Wang, a KMT member, said the session would only discuss an amendment of the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) that, if passed, would lift the ban on US beef containing ractopamine residue.
With KMT lawmakers facing pressure from President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who doubles as KMT chairman, to pass the bill and bring the dispute to a conclusion, the DPP caucus is considering another round of protests to block Ma’s plan.
DPP caucus convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) declined to reveal his caucus’ strategy for the proposed extra session, adding that the DPP’s “grand scheme” would be discussed in a caucus meeting tomorrow.
Ker acknowledged it would be difficult to block the session from taking place, because the KMT enjoys a majority in the legislature.
The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) caucus said it would collaborate with the DPP if the KMT caucus tried to force the passage of the bill in the proposed extra session.
Meanwhile, People First Party (PFP) caucus whip Thomas Lee (李桐豪) said his caucus maintained that the review of the calculation formula for electricity prices should be the priority and the beef dispute could be discussed at a later date.
DPP Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) yesterday listed reasons for his opposition to an extra session.
First, Lin said, Ma could have waited until after the meeting of UN Codex Alimentarius Commission in Rome to see whether the EU and the US would settle on maximum residue levels for ractopamine in meat before deciding his own policy on the matter.
Ma could have also waited until the middle of next month for the legislature to discuss the issues of US beef, capital gains tax and nominees for the National Communications Commission altogether, he added.
Holding an extra session at this time would display a lack of legitimacy, Lin said, as the government should keep disaster relief and prevention at the top of its priority list, as the typhoon season is approaching and recent torrential downpours have caused floods nationwide.
DPP Legislator Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) proposed to resolve the beef dispute by the adoption of an “EU model.”
To resolve the bilateral dispute over beef hormones, the EU provides a tariff-free allowance of 20,000 tonnes of US beef annually while the US Department of Agriculture in 1989 established the “Non-Hormone Treated Cattle Program,” which continues to this day, to help US farmers produce beef which meets EU standards, Lee said.
Taiwan should be able to draw inspiration from the solution by keeping the ban on beef with ractopamine residues in place while providing the US with other incentives for its beef exports at the same time, he added.