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KMT lawmakers ready for showdown over U.S. beef vote

2012/06/11 23:05:19

Taipei, June 11 (CNA) Ruling Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers said Monday they were set for a showdown against a possible opposition-led boycott of a legislative vote on a controversial bill to allow U.S. beef containing the feed additive ractopamine into Taiwan.

Opposition lawmakers, led by the Democratic Progressive Party, have threatened to filibuster a draft bill that seeks to allow such imports, from clearing the Legislature before the session ends June 15.

The KMT, which controls the majority of 113-seat Legislative Yuan, may seek to convene the plenary meeting anytime, even the wee hours, on Tuesday to make sure the meeting can proceed smoothly, said Wu Yu-sheng, a caucus whip of the ruling party.

He said the party caucus is determined to pass the bill before the current legislative session ends.

The KMT also plans to mobilize party members to block opposition lawmakers from continuing to occupy the podium on the Legislature's floor, a tactic that has been used by the opposition in the past to prevent the review of controversial bills from taking place, an unnamed lawmaker said.

The draft bill has not been able to clear the Legislature due to opposition from lawmakers, activists and livestock farmers, who have raised concerns about potential health risks from eating the beef containing the leanness-enhancing additive.

President Ma Ying-jeou's administration has been pushing the bill on the grounds that allowing the imports is key to resuming important trade talks with the U.S. and ensuring Taiwan remains competitive.

Talks with the U.S. under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement have been stalled since 2007 due to the U.S. beef row.

Resuming the talks may pave the way for a free trade agreement with Taiwan's third largest trade partner, Taiwan officials have suggested.

The officials hinted that resolving the beef dispute will demonstrate Taiwan's commitment to trade liberalization and therefore is also key to Taiwan's inclusion in Trans-Pacific Partnership, a U.S.-led regional free-trade group.

(By Chen Wei-ting, Sherry Tang and Scully Hsiao)