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Delegation to visit U.S. over beef issue: premier

Delegation to visit U.S. over beef issue: premier

Taipei, Dec. 31 (CNA) A delegation composed of lawmakers, experts and civic group and government representatives will visit the United States after the legislature's adjournment and the New Year holiday in an attempt to minimize the possible impact on bilateral ties arising from the dispute over U.S. beef imports to Taiwan, Premier Wu Den-yih said Thursday.
Speaking at a news conference held at the Government Information Office, Wu said the Executive Yuan, through the Washington-based Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, had notified the United States that the delegation will make the trip to boost mutual understanding and communication on the issue.
Asked whether the Executive Yuan will put together a mission of its own to visit the United States, Wu said that will depend on subsequent developments and actual needs.
In view of the outcry from the public and the legislature over the Executive Yuan's decision in late October to partially lift a ban on some U. S. bone-in beef products, including offal and ground beef, the premier acknowledged that the government has not done enough to provide a clear explanation to the public.
"The executive branch will conduct an in-depth self-examination to avoid making the same mistake again," he pledged.
According to Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang, the United States fully understands Taiwan's stance and handling of the dispute following an explanation from Jason Yuan, Taiwan's top envoy to the United States.
"There is no urgent need for the executive branch to send a delegation to the United States for the time being, and it will be sent only when necessary," Yang explained.
However, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang said it seems that "the United States is to put aside a two-way meeting on the trade and investment framework agreement (TIFA) planned for early next year and to delay an exchange of high-ranking officials." Despite the strong pressure from the United States, Yang vowed to continue to communicate with the United States in the hope that bilateral communication will remain smooth.
Lawmakers from the ruling and opposition camps reached a consensus Tuesday on a revision to the Act Governing Food Sanitation that would ban the import of offal and ground beef from cattle raised in areas affected by mad cow disease within the past 10 years, including the United States. The bill will be put to a final vote Jan. 5.
In response, the U.S. Trade Representative's Office and the U.S.
Agriculture Department issued a joint statement saying that "the United States is deeply concerned and disappointed" by the proposed amendment that would prohibit imports of cattle skulls, brains, eyes, spinal cords and intestines, as well as ground beef and offal.
It also warned that if the bill is passed, the United States will abort a bilateral trade deal.
Commenting on the civic delegation's visit to the United States, Lu Hsueh-chang, a caucus whip of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) , said lawmakers are welcome to take part in the mission to explain the Taiwan people's stance on the beef issue to the U.S. side or to gain first-hand information about U.S. beef processing.
"But Taiwan's lawmakers have no responsibility for explaining the law amendment to Washington, " he noted, adding that "it is a matter of national dignity simply because Taiwan is not an American colony." KMT Legislator Daniel Huang, whose law revision proposal was adopted by the legislature, said that "in line with the Constitution, it is absolutely inappropriate for the legislature to send a delegation and explain the matter to Washington." He insisted that "he will not take part in the mission and head for the states for that reason," pointing out that he is responsible only to Taiwan's voters.
Huang Wei-jer, a lawmaker of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, meanwhile, said he would be willing to join the mission -- making him the first legislator to make the gesture.
(By M.T. Lee and Flor Wang)




Updated : 2021-04-12 22:21 GMT+08:00