If the livestock feed additive ractopamine is proven harmful to humans, the ban on meat products containing residues of the drug should not be lifted, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said yesterday.
Addressing the hot-button issue of ractopamine on the first day of a three-day visit to Yunlin County, Lee said he did not understand why President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was in a hurry to have a bill easing import restrictions on US beef containing ractopamine clear the legislature.
The 89-year-old politician said a buyer has the right to decide if he or she wants to make the purchase, and it is not for the seller to decide which product the consumer should buy.
“In this case, Taiwan is the buyer and the US is the seller, and it seems to me that we are now begging the US to sell us the products. It does not make sense,” Lee said in response to journalists’ questions. “The US is not the only country producing beef. We have other options.”
The priority is making an assessment on ractopamine’s impact on humans, which would be the responsibility of the Department of Health and the Council of Agriculture, he said, adding it would not be difficult for the government to investigate which US farms use ractopamine and which do not.
Lee said Taiwan could negotiate with the US about a free-trade agreement under the WTO framework if Taiwan finds a FTA is more desirable.
“The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement [TIFA] is not related to the FTA,” Lee said.
The Ma administration is dealing with the US beef issue without a country-to-country strategy and preparation, Lee said.
Lee’s trip to Yunlin is his third visit to southern Taiwan after recovering from cancer surgery in November last year.
Speaking to about 300 students at TransWorld University in Douliou City (斗六), Lee shared with them his life philosophy and reminisced about his life before he entered politics.
Coming from a landowning family, Lee said he was fortunate enough to enjoy freedom and things others could not have as a child, such as an encyclopedia for children, but that was also why he started to think about social justice at a young age.
“I began to think about who I was and why people have different lives,” Lee said, adding that he has been asking himself the question ever since and this inspiration was perhaps why he entered politics.
He encouraged the students to pose the same question to themselves and never stop asking the question, because traditional Chinese culture and Confucianism “never teaches you to ask this question.”
Lee also spoke about three books that had a profound impact on his life: The Priest and his Apprentice by Japanese essayist Hyakuzo Kurata, Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Sartor Resartus by Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle.
As for leadership, Lee highlighted the importance of faith and said that too many politicians and leaders around the world, including those in Taiwan, spend their time in a popularity contest, rather than solving problems for the people.
Lee is scheduled to talk about his political philosophy in a speech today at National Yunlin University of Science and Technology.