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Legislature facing fight on electricity rates, U.S. beef

2012/06/09 21:04:51

Taipei, June 9 (CNA) Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers threatened Saturday to continue their boycott of the Legislature's plenary session if the executive branch fails to revoke itsdecision to raise electricity rates.

Such a boycott would mean that the Legislature would not be able to vote on a bill to allow imports of U.S. beef containing residues of the leanness-enhancing livestock drug ractopamine, said DPP caucus whip Chen Ting-fei.

"There is no room for retreat," she said, indicating her party's intention to stymie the ruling Kuomintang's efforts to pass the so-called beef bill if the DPP's request on the electricity issue is ignored.

She argued that is absurd for Taiwan to raise electricity rates at a time when the international prices of crude oil and coal are going down.

In response to the DPP's boycott threat, ruling Kuomintang caucus whip Hsu Yao-chang asked the opposition party to calm down.

"It is irrational to boycott the meeting," he said, adding that he will continue to negotiate with the DPP caucus on the issue.

Lawmakers are scheduled to vote next week on amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation, which the Ma Ying-jeou administration has been pushing in order to ease the restrictions on U.S. beef.

Meanwhile, President Ma Ying-jeou said Saturday that Taiwan will not be able to join the global economic and trade system if it continues to lock out U.S. beef imports.

The public's health will not be sacrificed since people would have the choice not to buy or eat U.S. beef, Ma said in Chiayi, southern Taiwan.

However, if Taiwan refuses to open up to U.S. beef imports, "how can they (the United States) be convinced that we want trade liberalization?" he said.

"Stubbornly refusing to open its doors wider will leave Taiwan with no future," he added.

The United States is the world's largest importer and biggest consumption market, he said.

"If we can't keep a hold on it, Taiwan's products will gradually lose their market share in the U.S.," he said.

The KMT legislative caucus recently passed a resolution to line up the support of all its lawmakers behind the vote on the beef bill. The caucus has threatened to fine and discipline any of its lawmakers that fail to toe the party line on the issue. The KMT caucus is backing regulations to allow controlled levels of ractopamine residues in U.S. beef imports.

The DPP, however, is strongly opposed to the idea and has been insisting on maintaining the "zero-tolerance" rule that is currently in place.

DPP Legislator Liu Chien-kuo, head of a DPP task force on U.S. beef issues, pledged to "fight to the end" if the KMT tries to use its legislative majority to force the bill through.

Meanwhile, Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said he hopes the U.S. beef issue will be settled next week.

"Whether or not the legislation is passed, the issue should be resolved as soon as possible" so that the legislative agenda can proceed, he said.

(By Wen Kuei-hsiang, Chiang Chun-liang, Chang Jung-hsiang and
Elizabeth Hsu)
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