Taipei, The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) said Saturday that it will protest President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) move to ease restrictions on U.S. pork and beef imports, citing the government’s lack of communication, failure to release risk assessments and the policy’s impact on local farmers.
In a press conference Friday, Tsai announced that Taiwan will set standards for residue of the controversial feed additive ractopamine in imported pork, and allow imports of U.S. beef from cattle aged over 30 months, which had been banned because of fears of mad-cow disease.
Tsai’s announcement, which was intended to satisfy U.S. conditions for beginning negotiations on a free trade agreement, overturned years of opposition to any concessions on ractopamine in pork within her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The party was also extremely vocal during the presidency of the KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in its opposition to opening Taiwan up to American meat products with potential safety problems in exchange for more engagement on bilateral trade openings.
On Saturday, the KMT followed suit as party chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) declared his opposition to what was favored by the Ma administration’s policy.
Speaking to representatives of the pork industry in Hualien, Chiang said the government’s easing of import restrictions threatened the livelihood of Taiwan’s pork farmers and raised food safety concerns for the broader public.
Chiang’s remarks came as farmers in Yunlin County, which accounts for 30 percent of domestic pork production, announced a planned protest at the county government Monday against the central government’s handling of the issue.
Meanwhile, in an interview with CNA, KMT Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) suggested that his party’s opposition had more to do with process than with the policy itself.
Given the government’s lack of communication to the public and its failure to release an evaluation of the policy’s risks, there is “no question” that the KMT will oppose it, Chiang said, adding that the Legislature should have the authority to review such decisions.
Separately on Saturday, the Consumers Foundation, Chinese Taipei, called on the government to provide the public with a transparent account of its decision-making process, and to publish any assessments it had done on the policy’s potential risks.
It also asked whether a NT$10 billion (US$340.8 million) fund the government has proposed to subsidize the domestic pork industry would provide payouts to Taiwanese consumers if they suffered adverse health effects from U.S. meat products.
Members of the government, meanwhile, sought to reassure the public regarding the policy’s perceived risks. Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) addressed some of the more common concerns through a series of graphics posted on his Facebook page.
U.S. imports will not harm Taiwan’s domestic pork production, he argued in one graphic, because Taiwan already imports pork from other countries and its domestic market share remains above 90 percent.
Another image advised consumers who don’t want to eat American pork to check a product’s place of origin, which is legally required to be on display at supermarkets, restaurants and food vendors.
The government will also mandate that only domestic meat products are served in Taiwanese schools, the graphic said.
In policy terms, Council of Agriculture chief Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) unveiled six measures that he said would guarantee income stability and increase the competitiveness of Taiwan’s pork producers.
The measures included pricing safeguards, incentives for restaurants and public enterprises to use domestic pork, subsidies for facility upgrades and funding for an industry development plan.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel