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Speaker calls for ‘democratic’ handling of U.S. beef dispute

2012/06/27 11:38:26

Taipei, June 27 (CNA) The ruling Kuomintang and the opposition parties should all adopt a spirit of democracy in their handling of the U.S. beef dispute, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said Wednesday.

If there is no consensus on the issue, a majority vote should carry, Wang said before a conference on the development of the local biotech industry.

Wang urged legislators to “deal with the matter peacefully” and to “show a spirit of democracy.”

The Legislature in its last session failed to process a bill aimed at allowing imports of U.S. beef containing the livestock leanness-enhancer ractopamine.

In the final week of the session, opposition lawmakers occupied the legislative podium, staging a boycott of the bill that was scheduled to be processed in a plenary meeting.

The opposition legislators have argued that the feed additive poses health risks to consumers.

However, the Legislature has scheduled a three-day extraordinary session July 25-27 to deal with the bill to amend the food safety act.

If it is passed, the bill will allow importation of U.S. beef products containing controlled levels of ractopamine residues.

In response to a reporter's question, Wang acknowledged that the controversial U.S. beef dispute has been an “inevitable” barrier to bilateral trade.

Imports of U.S. beef have been a sore point in trade ties between Taipei and Washington for many years.

Taiwan first banned beef imports from the U.S. when a case of mad cow disease was reported in the state of Washington in December 2003.

In April 2005, Taiwan reopened to imports of boneless U.S. beef from cattle under 30 months of age but imposed another ban in June 2005 when a second case of mad cow disease was reported in the U.S.

Imports of boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age were resumed in 2006 and bone-in beef was granted entry in late 2009.

More recently, Washington has been pressing for wider opening and for Taiwan to lift its ban on beef containing ractopamine residues.

(By Nancy Liu)