TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The parties at the Legislative Yuan reached a preliminary consensus over a ban on the import of U.S. beef parts Tuesday, leaving two opposition proposals to a vote scheduled for January 5.
After a first round of negotiations between the Kuomintang and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party over their respective proposals for amendments to the Food Sanitation Act failed during the morning, the ruling party threatened to take the issue to a vote in the afternoon.
Tension mounted Tuesday following weeks of stalemate over choosing a way to react to a Taiwan-U.S. protocol in late October allowing certain U.S. bone-in beef products to be imported despite public fears about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease.
The consensus which came out of the Legislative Yuan was based on the proposal from KMT lawmaker Hwang Yih-jiau to ban the export, import and sale of six types of beef products, reports said. The latest version added a line saying that if there were international pressure, both parties at the Legislative Yuan and the Executive Yuan would face it together.
A DPP proposal that only beef from cattle younger than 30 months could be imported would come up for a vote on January 5, reports said. The same was expected to happen to another opposition motion, a ban on bone-in beef products until the public expressed itself in a referendum now being petitioned by consumers action groups.
The key differences between the two original proposals were the nature of the banned products and especially the age of the cattle.
The KMT motion lists six potentially risky beef products to be banned and demands scientific tests as a precondition for import. KMT legislative caucus whip Lu Hsueh-chang claimed the ruling party version was even stricter than the opposition one.
The DPP proposal emphasized that all meat from animals older than 30 months should be banned because according to international research older cattle produced riskier meat. The DPP also wanted all bone-in beef to have bones removed while each individual case of the product should be inspected before its import would be allowed.
Both versions not only banned the import of the beef products, but also their export and sale.
The consensus proposal featured a line banning meat from countries or areas for ten years after BSE had been found there, reports said.
“If a scientific method is found to cure the effects of mad cow disease, we can reduce the ten-year period,” said DPP legislator Yeh Yi-jin.
DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen visited the Legislative Yuan Tuesday afternoon at the end of the final negotiations. She said her party had done its best to defend the health of citizens, and she could understand the consensus reached.
Before the likelihood of a consensus appeared, lawmakers from both sides were preparing for physical confrontation. DPP members said they would remove their ties while KMT legislators changed into athletes’ shoes.
“In the worst case, we are prepared to be carried out of the Legislative Yuan,” DPP lawmaker Wang Sing-nan told reporters.
Government officials recently warned that an outright ban by the Legislative Yuan would damage Taiwan’s international credibility and provoke retaliation by Washington.
Premier Wu Den-yih said a first review of the October protocol would only be possible six months after its promulgation, in other words around next April.
In a TV interview, he said that his government would stick by three principles, resolving public doubts, respecting a consensus reached on November 3, and not going against the protocol.
Turning to the possibility of U.S. retaliation in the event of a tough decision by the Legislative Yuan, he said “You wouldn’t believe me if I said I wasn’t concerned.”