Alexa

Taiwan lawmakers send message to U.S. and PRC

Taiwan lawmakers send message to U.S. and PRC

The bipartisan consensus reached Tuesday in Taiwan's national legislature to agree to approve amendments to the food sanitation act banning imports of risky beef products from countries where cases of mad cow disease have been documented sent a ringing message that foreign powers cannot ignore the will of the Taiwan people and the reality of Taiwan's democratic system.
The proposed amendments, which should be voted into law on Jan. 5, will challenge the content of a controversial protocol signed October 22 between the Taiwan Economic and Culture Representative Office (TECRO) and American Institute in Taiwan after secretive talks between Washington and President Ma Ying-jeou's right-wing Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) government.
The protocol, whose contents are still not been fully known even to legislators, overturned the ban imposed by the former Democratic Progressive Party government on U.S. beef imports after the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (also known as "mad cow disease") in the U.S. in December 2003, a prohibition which was moderated three years later to allow imports of boneless beef from calves less than 30 months old.
The announcement of the protocol to allow imports of U.S. beef-in-bone, ground beef and assorted "offals" sparked anger across Taiwan society, including lawmakers and mayors from all parties, consumer protection groups and tens of thousands of citizens and led to a petition launched by the Consumers Foundation for a national citizen referendum on the protocol.
Tuesday's consensus resulted from nearly two months of legislative filibustering by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party to compel the KMT caucus to implement a previous consensus to take legislative action to protect the health security of Taiwan citizens.
Assuming that the KMT caucus does not renege a second time, the revisions will ban ground beef, brains, eyes, spinal cords and intestines from any territory which has had a documented case of BSE during the previous 10 years and ground beef from being imported into Taiwan until effective treatment for the disease has been found.
Besides approving a final third reading of these changes, lawmakers will debate a rider proposed by the DPP that would extend the ban to bone-in beef and beef from cows older than 30 months.
Not surprisingly, the U.S. government is somewhat peeved at the reversal.
A joint statement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative Office expressed disappointment that the proposed changes would "unjustifiably bar import of certain U.S. beef and beef products," "have no basis in science or fact" and would constitute an "unilateral abrogation" of the October 22 protocol that would impact "on Taiwan's reputation as a reliable trading partner and responsible member of the international community."
Hubris undermines credibility
The USDA and USTR neglected to note that the revisions would basically just continue an existing ban and also skip over the facts that the risk caucus for BSE is entirely different from other pathogens and that there is no "acceptable" level of risk for the entry of BSE into Taiwan's food chain.
As noted by the USDA's own Food Safety and Inspection Service, there are no effective preventative tests or effective treatment for BSE and prions, the suspected agent, cannot be killed by cooking, which means that consumers cannot "protect themselves."
Moreover, the KMT government has damaged its own credibility to represent Taiwan in the diplomatic arena due to its own arrogant refusal to respect the principles of democratic transparency and accountability.
Although National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi publically declared that the protocol was "above domestic law," the presidential office shifted gears yesterday and urged Washington to respect the public will expressed through Taiwan's democratic process and announced that it would send a delegation to Washington to explain the Legislative Yuan's actions.
Hopefully, the Ma government will include lawmakers from all parties who are knowledgeable in public health affairs and representatives from Taiwan consumer and health related civic organizations so that U.S. officials can get a comprehensive account with a minimum of partisan distortion.
The Ma government could have avoided considerable grief for all sides if it had bothered to ascertain and "respect" the will of the Taiwan people and our elected lawmakers before engaging in secret talks to sign this protocol and by submitting the treaty for ratification by the Legislative Yuan as mandated by the Constitution.
Through its action, the Legislative Yuan has signalled the Ma government that Taiwan's democracy and people's will cannot trampled upon even if the KMT holds an overwhelming legislative majority.
The message that all external agreements are subject to the will of the Taiwan people is most timely in the wake of the decision last week by the KMT and the PRC's ruling Chinese Communist Party to launch talks on the even more bitterly controversial "economic cooperation framework agreement."
Both the KMT and the CCP must respect the reality that no cross-strait agreement, including the ECFA, that fails to meet the test of democratic accountability will be considered valid by the Taiwan people.


Updated : 2021-03-02 04:18 GMT+08:00