President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday praised the legislature’s approval of amendments to a food sanitation bill and a capital gains tax proposal on Wednesday, defending the government’s efforts to push forward the two bills and help revive the nation’s economy.
“There will be opposition to these two major bills and people will not feel the effects immediately. However, Taiwan is back on the right track. I am aware that reform is an uphill battle and I will lead Taiwan in the right direction with a clear conscience,” he said in his latest message on his Facebook page.
Lawmakers on Wednesday approved the amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) that relaxed a ban on the livestock feed additive ractopamine in imported beef products.
The legislature also approved a proposal to reinstate a capital gains tax on securities investments, amid criticism from the opposition parties that the bill was a “hollow shell” that would in no way achieve its goal of promoting a fair and just tax system.
Ma yesterday insisted the approval of the beef imports bill would help solve the economic and trade deadlock the nation has been facing. The capital gains tax, on the other hand, is the first stage of the tax justice the government has been pursuing, he said.
“The approval of the two bills means that the public gradually understands the government’s determination to revive the economy and push forward social justice,” he said.
Ma dismissed the opposition parties’ criticism that the government sacrificed public health in lifting the ban on beef with ractopamine residue and said the government had gathered scientific evidence and expert opinion before making a decision.
“There’s only one truth and that is I never made any promises to the US on the beef import issue. Public health was a top priority when we were handling the issue,” he said.
Ma said the government would start negotiating with the US on the resumption of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). The talks would prepare the terrain for negotiations on free-trade agreements (FTAs) or other economic pacts with the nation’s major trading partners, speeding up the country’s efforts to partake in regional economic integration.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Deputy Representative to the US Leo Lee (李澄然) said long-stalled trade talks between the US and Taiwan would restart once Taiwan formally sets a standard for the maximum residue levels in beef.
Working-level meetings for the TIFA are expected to be held in Taipei in September at the earliest, Lee said.
Both sides also need time to deal with administrative issues, and Lee cited the Ministry of Economic Affairs as saying that the talks might not resume until early next year.
Among the issues Taiwan would like to put on the agenda are facilitating trade and investment and easing e-commerce and trade barriers, Lee said, quoting the ministry.
On the other hand, the US is highly concerned about trade barriers, intellectual property rights, medicine and Taiwan’s rice import quota, Lee said.
Additional reporting by CNA