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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Beef

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Following the full-page- and multi-page-
coverage in major Taipei dailies this past weekend
concerning the official announcement of the second case
of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in the United
States, AIT Taipei held a press conference Monday
(6/27) featuring Director Douglas Paal and Deputy Chief
of AIT Agriculture Section Eric Trachtenberg to
reassure the Taiwan public of the safety of U.S. beef.
The Taipei dailies continued to discuss the safety of
U.S. beef in their inside pages the next day (6/28),
where they highlighted Paal's reassurances and Taiwan
President Chen Shui-bian's and Premier Frank Hsieh's
supporting statements that U.S. beef should not be
taken off shelves. At the same time, however, the
newspapers covered in great detail opposition
legislators' moves to sue Taiwan's Health Minister Hou
Sheng-mou for negligence of duty for lifting Taiwan's
ban on U.S. beef imports in April.

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2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a centrist
"China Times" commentary questioned the decision-making
process of the Taiwan government with regard to opening
the Taiwan market to U.S. beef in April, while a pro-
unification "United Daily News" commentary criticized
the inconsistent attitudes shown by different Taiwan
government agencies in making decisions that directly
concern the Taiwan people's interests. A limited-
circulation, pro-independence, English-language "Taipei
Times" editorial, however, stressed that science has
shown U.S. beef is safe to eat. This editorial
continued by stating that the Taiwan government has
bowed to pressure with regard to U.S. beef - not
pressure from the United States, however, but that of
unscrupulous and populist Taiwan politicians. End

A) "[AIT Taipei Director] Douglas Paal's Promotional

Journalist Chang Hui-ying noted in the "My Views"
column of the centrist, pro-status quo "China Times"

". On the other hand, when [we] look at the Taiwan
government's decision to re-open its market to U.S.
beef [in April], Taiwan society cannot help but ask
questions such as whether the decision was made in the
best interests of the Taiwan people . . The crisis
within [such a decision] lies in the fact that the
Taiwan people thought that their government, if really
interested in safeguarding their health, would demand
that [imported] U.S. beef be one hundred percent safe,
in the same way that any parent would do for [his or
her] children, not minding having to take all the
trouble [in making such a demand]. But the consequent
decision-making direction was obviously the opposite.
As a result, [we cannot help but ask] which peoples'
interests is [the Taiwan government] protecting after
all? Or, whose interests is it protecting, anyway?

"Despite various speculation, people outside can hardly
prove who really gave the order [to lift the ban on
U.S. beef] and why. The problem is that eating beef
[safely] has nothing to do with whether you belong to
the Pan-Blue or Pan-Green Camp. For the Taiwan people,
what directly concerns them is the [safety of the] food
that they eat every day, and it is an issue that they
originally assumed and trusted that their government
would do the best it could to protect them. It will be
a serious crisis of confidence if [the Taiwan
government] loses the peoples' trust on an issue like

B) "Do [We] Still Have Our Right to Eat?"

The "Black and White" column of the pro-unification
"United Daily News" [circulation: 600,000] wrote

"When a Department of Health (DOH) official said U.S.
beef currently in local markets does not need to be
taken off the shelves, he was actually calling on the
local people to calm down and to continue to enjoy the
U.S. beef. Given DOH's fearless attitude regardless of
any criticism against it, it would be very difficult
for U.S. beef not to become a kind of rare and precious
good even if the [Taiwan] government had no alternative
but to ban it again.

"Whereas there are three different [government]
agencies [in charge], there are actually four different
versions about [the safety of] U.S. beef -- no wonder
local people feel confused about whether U.S. beef is
safe or not. While Japan, Korea and Singapore are
still cautiously awaiting further assessments, Taiwan
has already fearlessly embraced U.S. beef under the pre-
announcement and the push of our president. The
Council of Agriculture (COA) has opposed the opening of
the market to the United States from the beginning to
end, but [the government] simply skipped COA and
directly had DOH open the doors to our market to please
Uncle Sam. .

"Without doubt, U.S. beef is very delicious and our
people need not over panic. Nobody can say no if the
gourmets want to continue eating U.S. beef. In fact,
what really has panicked the Taiwan people is not U.S.
beef but the government's inconsistent behavior. Our
government can easily throw away [our people's] right
to eat, let alone its sovereignty to defend the
Diaoyutais [ed: islands claimed by Japan, China and

C) "Complaints over U.S. Beef Half-Baked"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times"
[circulation: 30,000] commented in an editorial (6/28):

". Given these conditions, the [Taiwan] government
certainly caved in to pressure - but not pressure from
the US, but from unscrupulous, populist politicians.
It should not have banned US beef, but explained
clearly why such a ban was unnecessary. Those who do
not believe in the WAHO's [i.e. World Animal Health
Organization] science or the effectiveness of US
slaughterhouse regulation could simply choose not to
eat US beef. Let the market decide. Which last
weekend it did; consumers flocked to the stores to
purchase US beef, expecting that stores would cut
prices to get the meat off their shelves before they
might be compelled to take it off. At least the public
has shown some common sense."


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