REFERENDUMS 2021/Scholar says pork ban will hurt CPTPP bid; media personality claims 'obscurantism'

11/18/2021 11:50 PM
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Roy Chun Lee (left) and Jaw Shaw-kong. CNA file photos
Roy Chun Lee (left) and Jaw Shaw-kong. CNA file photos

Taipei, Nov. 18 (CNA) Rejecting American pork imports will jeopardize Taiwan's efforts to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), international trade expert Roy Chun Lee (李淳) said Thursday at a televised referendum forum, echoing President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) views on the issue.

If the referendum passes to prohibit U.S. imports of pork, offal and other related products that contain the livestock drug ractopamine, it would be a step backward and would portray Taiwan as an unreliable, untrustworthy trade partner, said Lee, senior deputy CEO of the Taiwan WTO & RTA Center at the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research.

"It would make Taiwan's bid to join the CPTPP even more difficult," Lee said.

Earlier this week, President Tsai expressed the same view during a podcast interview, saying that the CPTPP's 11 signatory countries all allow the import of such products from the U.S. and will check whether Taiwan is prepared to clear the hurdles to comply with the high global standards of free trade.

In Lee's presentation Thursday, he said that about 90 percent of the pork products in Taiwan are from domestically raised pigs, and only 10 percent is imported, mainly from Canada and Spain.

On the other side of the issue, former Legislator and media personality Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康) urged the public to vote "yes" on the referendum question, saying that the Democratic Progress Party (DPP) government is deliberately blurring the line on the U.S. pork issue.

"This is obscurantism," said Jaw, a vocal critic of the DPP government.

Jaw said he had warned the government last year that allowing the import of U.S. pork containing ractopamine would have a negative effect on the the import of ractopamine-free U.S. pork because people would lose confidence in all pork from the United States.

Since Taiwan began allowing the importation of U.S. pork products containing ractopamine, local consumers have stopped buying American pork, as evidenced by the plunge in such imports, from 16,000 metric tons in 2020 to 4,000 metric tons this year, he said.

That decision is "actually hurting U.S. pork imports," Jaw argued.

Thursday's televised forum also included debates on the other three questions that will be on the ballot in the Dec. 18 referendum, namely the future of nuclear power in Taiwan, the conservation of algal reefs, and whether referendums should be held concurrently with major elections.

The arguments over the safety of Taiwan's long-mothballed Fourth Nuclear Power plant took center stage, with Huang Shih-hsiu (黃士修), who initiated the campaign for a public vote to unseal the power plant, facing off against Hsu Yung-hui (許永輝), head of the nuclear power division at Taiwan Power Company (Taipower).

Huang said that the nuclear power plant and its ancillary facilities have been well-maintained since it was mothballed, which would make its reactivation easier, and he noted that Hsu had signed off on the safety inspection report.

In response, Hsu said that he was in charge of the trial operations of the Fourth Nuclear Power plant, but was not a member of the safety inspection process. The first trial operation report was sent to the Atomic Energy Council in 2010, when the KMT was in power, and it was not approved, he said.

Hsu expressed concerns about the safety of the plant, citing problems such as cramped space and incompatible components.

"I support the future of nuclear power, not the Fourth Nuclear Power plant," he said.

In the debate on whether future referendums should be held concurrently with major elections, DPP lawmaker Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) opposed the proposal, while and KMT councilperson Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) put up arguments in favor of it.

On the issue of the liquid natural gas terminal, the two main speakers were lawyer Tsai,Ya-ying (蔡雅瀅) and Chao Chia-wei (趙家緯), chairman of the Taiwan Environment Planning Association.

(By Ken Wang)

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