Taiwan opposition party denies declining to meet with US officials

AIT reportedly asked KMT lawmakers for meeting as party promotes boycott of American pork imports

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KMT Chair Johnny Chiang

KMT Chair Johnny Chiang (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's main opposition party, the Kuomintang party (KMT), has reportedly declined to meet with officials from the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) as the party aggressively pushes a boycott of American pork over the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) decision to loosen Taiwanese meat import regulations.

The KMT has denied having declined an invitation to a luncheon at the residence of the AIT’s Deputy Director Raymond Greene on Thursday, citing overlapping schedules among the invited lawmakers and their varied willingness.

Five KMT lawmakers who are members of the legislature’s foreign and national defense committee, including Ma Wen-chun (馬文君), Lu Yu-ling (呂玉玲), Chen I-hsin (陳以信), Wen Yu-hsia (溫玉霞), and KMT Chair Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), could not make it Thursday, but they are hoping to arrange another meeting with AIT officials, said KMT Deputy Secretary-General Huang Kwei-Bo (黃奎博).

Huang rejected media reports that the KMT lawmakers did not want to “have their heads petted” by the American officials while the DPP is pushing for expanded imports of American beef and pork. The KMT is willing to talk about the issue with the AIT and to ensure that Taiwan’s public opinion is communicated, said Huang.

The KMT had earlier issued a statement on Monday (Sept. 7) in the hope of quashing speculation. The KMT maintains close contact with the AIT, and a meeting is still being negotiated, said the party in the statement.

UDN reported that the invited KMT lawmakers have polarized attitudes toward whether to accept the AIT invitation at a time when the party has put out great resistance to the import of American pork products. Some lawmakers consider it an opportunity to express public concern for the American pork products containing ractopamine, while others worry the meeting could complicate the ongoing campaign, the report said.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) at the end of August declared that the government will allow the import of American pork containing ractopamine and American beef from cattle aged 30 months or older staring in 2021.

“This decision is based on our national economic interests and consistent with our overall strategic goals for the future,” said Tsai, hinting at her administration's intention to negotiate for a bilateral trade agreement with the U.S.

In addition to mobilizing KMT-led local governments to boycott the Tsai administration's new policy, the KMT is set to start a referendum petition calling for a ban on American pork.