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Cablegate: Politics Still Looms Over Taiwan Imports of U.S.

VZCZCXYZ0005
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #3880/01 3210110
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 170110Z NOV 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3060
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5943
RUEHML/AMEMBASSY MANILA 9842
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 8250
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE 6683
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 8212
RUEHC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 003880

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE PASS USTR, STATE FOR EAP/TC, USTR FOR STRATFORD AND
ALTBACH, USDOC FOR 4431/ITA/MAC/AP/OPB/TAIWAN/JDUTTON,
USDA/FAS FOR SHEIKH/MIRELES

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ETRD TW
SUBJECT: POLITICS STILL LOOMS OVER TAIWAN IMPORTS OF U.S.
BEEF


1. (SBU) Summary: In advance of USDA Deputy Undersecretary
Lambert's visit, Taiwan Minister of Health Hou Sheng-mou
complained to AIT Director Young about politically motivated
criticism of DOH and its decision-making process to reopen
Taiwan's market to U.S. beef. Hou sought the Director's
support to counter such criticism. While noncommittal on
specific support, the Director noted the sound science used
by Taiwan in reopening its market. End Summary.

Political Situation Surrounding Beef Imports
--------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) On November 14, AIT Director Young met with
Department of Health (DOH) Minister HOU Sheng-mou to discuss
the US beef import situation in advance of USDA Deputy
Undersecretary Lambert's visit November 18 - 20. At the
Director's request, DOH Vice Minister Wang Hsiu-hung also
attended the meeting, along with Dr. Peter Chang, Director
General, International Affairs, DOH, and Dr. HSIAO Tung-ming,
Counselor, DOH. Keith Schneller, ATO Director, and Rosemary
KAO, AGR Agricultural Specialist, accompanied the Director to
the meeting. Dr. HSIAO, until recently the Director General
of the Bureau of Food Safety until Minister Hou removed him
over importation of contaminated crabs from Shanghai,
commented life is good in Taiwan except for the overwhelming
pressure from the media.

3. (SBU) Minister HOU has been reluctant to discuss the US
beef import situation with US officials in the recent past,
but requested this meeting because he will not be able to
meet Lambert next week. As Minister, Hou explained he must
be personally present at the Legislative Yuan (LY) on Monday
to respond to any queries LY members may pose. Hou expressed
his frustration to the Director over a draft LY investigative
report recently circulated for comment. This report,
authored by LY members who have been highly critical of the
DOH regarding the reopening of the beef market last January,
accuses DOH of reopening the Taiwan market to U.S. beef under
pressure from the U.S. and without regard to the safety of
the imported beef. One of the authors, TSU legislator Lai
Hsin-yuan, is trying to attract media attention to her
consumer protection efforts and another may have close ties
to Australian beef interests. Minister HOU stressed this
inflammatory report is politically charged and has nothing to
do with scientific realities. However, the report has put
great pressure on DOH to defend its decision making process.
Minister HOU said his food safety experts will release a
report in the very near future repudiating the charges in the
LY report.

Report Summary
--------------

4. (SBU) The draft report claims the U.S. pressured DOH to
reopen the market without conducting proper risk assessments
and ignored guidance from the Council of Agriculture. It
claims U.S. beef is still not safe for Taiwan consumers and
could affect Taiwan's animal disease situation. It
recommends that those DOH officials who made the decision to
reopen the market be punished and the market for US beef be
immediately suspended. However, Winston Dang, a DPP LY
member and retired USG employee is drafting a separate
report, which could moderate or significantly change the
final report produced by the ad hoc investigative committee.

DOH Decisions in-line with OIE International Standards
--------------------------------------------- ---------

5. (U) DIR Young commented that DOH decisions were made in
accordance with international standards set by the OIE (The
World Organization for Animal Health). He explained Dr.
Lambert would be meeting with COA and DOH officials next
Monday to update them on BSE safeguards in the United States
and to inform them of the recent U.S. petition to the OIE for
a risk status classification for U.S. beef. This OIE
classification, expected in the spring of 2007, will
recognize all types of U.S. beef, including bone-in, as
safe-to-trade. The Director stressed U.S. companies would
not export any products to Taiwan not deemed safe by U.S.
authorities. Minister HOU expressed his appreciation for

support from AIT's Agricultural Section and for Dr. Lambert's
visit next Monday.

Hou Seeks U.S. Support
----------------------

6. (SBU) In a private pull aside at the conclusion of the
meeting, Hou privately sought the Director's assistance to
persuade former President Lee Teng-hui, KMT Chairman Ma
Ying-jeou and LY Speaker Wang Jin-pyng not to allow the
"zealots" in the LY to attack DOH and its decision to
authorize U.S. beef imports for personal political purposes.
While the Director was noncommittal on just what support he
would offer, he did tell the Minister the U.S. remains
comfortable with the science behind Taiwan's decision to open
its market to U.S. beef. He noted, too, Japan's later
decision to re-open its market to U.S. beef, underscores the
validity of Taiwan's decision to follow OIE guidelines in
assessing the subject.

7. (SBU) Comment: Given that Hou will not be able to meet
Lambert during his visit, the Director requested Vice
Minister Wang to attend the meeting so she would be fully
briefed when she meets Lambert. The Director will be giving
a speech on November 21 to the American Chamber of Commerce
in Taipei and plans to include a comment supporting Taiwan's
sound, scientific process in reopening its market to U.S.
beef. End Comment.
YOUNG

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