Request for Tsai to brief Legislature on U.S. pork imports rejected

10/27/2020 02:59 PM
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Members of the KMT, including Chairman Johnny Chiang (fourth from left), protest the decision in front of the Legislative Yuan. CNA photo Oct. 27, 2020
Members of the KMT, including Chairman Johnny Chiang (fourth from left), protest the decision in front of the Legislative Yuan. CNA photo Oct. 27, 2020

Taipei, Oct. 27 (CNA) Initiatives proposed by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) to have President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) brief lawmakers on her decision to allow imports of U.S. pork containing a controversial veterinary drug have been rejected.

The two proposals were voted down Tuesday in the Legislature, which is controlled by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The KMT first raised the two proposals on Sept. 18.

One was to invite the president to present a report to the Legislature on the decision to allow U.S. pork containing ractopamine, which is banned in Taiwan, to enter the local market.

The other was to have Tsai make public the process involved in coming to the decision and apologize for making it without first discussing it with all parties involved.

As DPP lawmakers and the KMT were unable to reach a consensus over the two proposals during a month-long negotiation process, the Legislative Yuan put the two initiatives to a vote on Tuesday morning.

The first proposal to have Tsai brief lawmakers over the opening was defeated by a 55-40 vote, and the second one asking Tsai to apologize for making the decision without any public discussion was rejected by a 58-38 margin.

The KMT said the two smaller parties with caucuses in the legislative body -- the Taiwan People's Party and the New Power Party -- also backed the two proposals, but their combined seats still fell well short of a majority.

KMT legislative caucus whip Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) said the nation's Constitution stipulates that the Legislative Yuan can ask the president to report to the lawmaking body to explain major national policies.

He criticized the DPP's use of a majority to avoid taking responsibility for its policy as unbecoming of a ruling party.

DPP caucus whip Chuang Jui-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said, however, that Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) is more than willing to brief lawmakers over the decision but the KMT continues to boycott Su's scheduled report in the Legislature.

Under Taiwan's political system, the president is head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces, represents the nation in foreign relations, and is empowered to appoint the heads of four branches of the government, including the premier.

It is the responsibility of the premier, who leads the Executive Yuan, or Cabinet, to report regularly to the Legislative Yuan.

The new policy, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021, was announced by Tsai on Aug. 28 in an apparent effort to clear the way for a trade deal with the United States.

Ractopamine is currently banned for use in pigs in Taiwan as well as in the European Union and China because of concerns over its safety to both animals and humans.

The U.S., however, has long criticized Taiwan's zero-tolerance policy for ractopamine in pigs as an impediment to trade, and has not held formal talks on trade with Taiwan through the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement framework since October 2016.

In announcing that the restrictions on imported pork will be eased, President Tsai said the move will be a "significant starting point" toward promoting closer bilateral economic ties.

Critics of the decision have argued that it fails to prioritize the health of Taiwanese or the interests of local pig farmers, despite the government's reassurances.

(By Wang Cheng-chung and Joseph Yeh)

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