Taipei, June 2 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou will attend a planned meeting of all lawmakers of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) to discuss major bills, including proposals dealing with imports of American beef containing residues of a banned leanness-enhancing drug, a KMT spokesman said Saturday.
The president will take part in the meeting, expected to be held on June 8 at the earliest, in his capacity as party chairman, Yin Wei said.
The meeting was scheduled because competing draft amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation, proposed in reaction to the United States' call for Taiwan to open its doors to beef containing ractopamine residues, have reached their legislative home stretch.
KMT Legislator Lin Hung-chih, who also heads the party's policy coordination committee, said it was necessary for the party chairman to "assign duties" to lawmakers and create a consensus on how to approach significant bills such as those concerning U.S. beef imports.
The Legislature's Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee dealt a blow to the government when it adopted on May 7 an amendment proposed by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that called for zero tolerance on ractopamine residues.
The measure passed 7-6 because of the absence of one KMT lawmaker from the committee vote, reflecting dissension among the party's legislators over government policy.
The Ma administration supports legislation that would lift the ban on ractopamine on imports of American beef and set maximum residue levels for the drug, which is allowed as a feed additive in the U.S.
Government officials have justified the policy by pointing to pressure from the United States, which has hinted on many occasions that as long as Taiwan does not resolve the U.S. beef controversy, it will not restart bilateral trade talks that stalled in 2007.
The talks are seen as crucial for export-dependent Taiwan to remain competitive with rival South Korea, which has already signed a free trade pact with the United States, and improve its chances of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a Pacific Rim trade bloc.
(By Lee Shu-hua, Wen Kuei-hsiang and Elizabeth Hsu)