Legislature to hold extra session on beef issue
By Grace Soong, The China Post & CNA
June 19, 2012, 12:31 am TWN
The China Post & CNA--Taiwan's Legislature will hold an extra session Wednesday through Thursday to deal with a controversial bill on U.S. beef imports, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said yesterday after convening a meeting of all party caucuses.
The multiparty negotiations came after the ruling Kuomintang caucus proposed holding an extra session to resolve the beef issue, since a five-day filibuster by legislators of the opposition parties prevented a vote on the matter before the regular session ended June 15.
"The U.S. beef-related bill will be the only bill dealt with during the extra session," Wang told the media.
The speaker said he has urged the opposition parties to respect the democratic mechanism and stop occupying the podium in Legislature. Just as he has respected the minority votes in the Legislature in every way he could, the legislative minority should obey the majority vote, he said.
Wait for Codex: DPP
The opposition party caucuses, however, said they are opposed to the decision to call an extra legislative session to amend the Act Governing Food Sanitation, which will pave the way for easing the ractopamine ban on U.S. beef imports.
The ban should not be discussed until after the Codex Alimentarius Commission meets in early July, said Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), caucus whip of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The Codex, established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, is scheduled to discuss ractopamine-related issues at the meeting.
President Ma Ying-jeou should not hasten the decision to open U.S. beef imports, lest the Codex suggests against allowing the import of ractopamine-containing beef and Taiwan becomes a joke internationally, DPP Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said.
Emphasizing that it is not opposed to the United States or U.S. beef, DPP legislative whip Pan Men-an (潘孟安) said, "(We're) just opposed to ractopamine-related meat products."
According to head of the KMT's Central Policy Committee Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池), however, the DPP's suggestion of waiting for the Codex decision is just an act of procrastination.
"Everyone knows that there are issues between the European Union — who convenes the Codex — and the U.S., and that there will be no conclusion after the meeting," Lin said.
Beef Import Will not Help TPP: PFP
While the DPP proposed that the Ma administration should wait for Codex decisions, Lee Tung-hao (李桐豪), caucus whip of the opposition People First Party (PFP), accused Ma of lying to the public by linking the U.S. beef import to Taiwan's future trade competitiveness.
Although Ma claimed that allowing the import of U.S. beef and resuming Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks with the U.S. could lead to free trade agreement (FTA) talks in the future — which in turn will help with Taiwan's admission into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — such a statement is a lie, Lee said. Signing the FTA indicates the necessity of comprehensively opening Taiwan's market, yet "is our government ready for that?" Lee questioned.
Even if we do sign the FTA with the U.S., it still takes years before the agreement is fully processed and agreed on by the Legislature. Meanwhile, the U.S.-South Korea FTA has already come into effect this year. That Ma wants to promote Taiwan's competitiveness through the signing and participation of TIFA, FTA and TPP is plainly wrong, Lee asserted.