TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The mayor of Taichung caused a diplomatic incident on Wednesday (Dec. 16) when she publicly lectured the de facto American ambassador to Taiwan over U.S. pork imports containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine, prompting him to cancel a lunch scheduled with her later that day.
On Wednesday, Director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) William Brent Christensen visited Taichung City Hall for what had reportedly been intended to be a private meeting with Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) of the Kuomintang (KMT) party. However, the Taichung City Government apparently did not follow the originally agreed-upon terms of the meeting and opened it to the media, catching the AIT delegation off guard, reported Liberty Times.
After the two leaders greeted each other, Lu bluntly told Christensen in front of the media that in the past, Taiwan’s regulations had been very strict and had forbidden pork products or imports containing ractopamine or clenbuterol. She said Taichung has its own law on the matter, adding that local public opinion is very clear: residents do not want the city government to change the law or lift the ban.
She then claimed that she was only "obeying the voice of the people," that her statement was not a "targeted" attack, and that she believes it will not affect the friendship and cooperation between the Taichung City and U.S. governments.
Christensen initially focused on listening to Lu's opening remarks as an interpreter translated her words, but when she mentioned the word "ractopamine," he averted eye contact and began to look down at a document in his lap. A member of the AIT delegation then stepped forward and whispered to him.
An official from the Taichung City Government then announced, "A city government official abruptly announced that the rest of the meeting would be closed [to the media], and reporters left the scene before Christensen responded."
That evening, AIT Spokesperson Amanda Mansour issued a rare solemn statement claiming that "All U.S. exports to Taiwan and our other trade partners are safe and meet the same high, evidence-based standards that we follow for our own consumption in the United States." Appearing to admonish Lu for her comments about ractopamine, the AIT then stated: "When political figures propagate disinformation and raise unfounded anxiety among Taiwan consumers, it is a disservice to everyone."
The statement then called on all parties to respond to the issue with a responsible and scientific attitude. It pointed out the importance of the security relationship between the two countries and expressed its belief that the "robust trade relationship" between the U.S. and Taiwan will continue to be a "mutually beneficial part of that partnership."