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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Beef Imports to Taiwan

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #1263/01 3000913
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 270913Z OCT 09
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2544
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9451
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0865

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001263

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/P, EAP/PD - THOMAS HAMM
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: U.S. BEEF IMPORTS TO TAIWAN

Summary: On October 27, as the controversy revolving around the
Taiwan government's decision to open its market to U.S. beef
continued to stay in the spotlight of the Taiwan media, news
coverage also focused on the prosecutors' investigation into
allegations of game fixing during the 2009 regular season of
Taiwan's professional baseball league. In terms of editorials and
commentaries, an editorial in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
lambasted the Ma administration for its opaque and arbitrary
decision-making process in allowing the import of U.S. ground beef
and offal. An editorial in the KMT-leaning "China Times" also
criticized Taiwan's central government for its unclear
decision-making process when opening Taiwan's market to U.S. beef.
An editorial in the pro-unification, economic-oriented "Economic
Daily News," however, said Taiwan has gained a lot by using U.S.
beef imports in exchange for talks on a Trade and Investment
Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the United States. An editorial in
the conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
also urged the public not to worry about the safety of U.S. beef.
End summary.

A) "[The Ma Ying-jeou Administration] Cannot Even Settle a Cow, What
[Ability] Does It Have to Talk about an Economic Cooperation
Framework Agreement?"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000]
editorialized (10/27):

"... In fact, the storm caused by the invasion of [U.S.] ground beef
and offal was not a single case. First, it concretely and precisely
reflected the Ma administration's consistent black-box
[decision-making] procedures and its blind spots since Ma assumed
office. ... Second, in terms of negotiating strategies, when a
small country engages with a big country in negotiations and
maneuvers, the number of its bargaining chips is relative and not
absolute; the government [of the small country] should take
advantage of all its mechanisms and conditions as a strong buttress
when it deals with other countries. ... When it comes to the
[import of] U.S. beef this time, which 'forfeits [Taiwan's]
sovereignty and humiliates our nation,' the Legislative Yuan had
reached a resolution in 2006, which said it required congressional
consent to open [Taiwan's market to U.S. beef]. The Ma
administration is particularly unforgivable in the way that it has
not only openly cast away this ready-made weapon, but has also
arbitrarily kept the KMT legislators in the dark.

"Third, judging from the perspective of the art of negotiation,
reaching an agreement is a process of give and take. If both sides
find [the terms] unsatisfactory but grudgingly acceptable, they can
reach a consensus, shake hands and sign the deal. The Ma
administration, amid the calls of surprise by the Taiwan people,
suddenly decided to open Taiwan's market fully to U.S. beef by
giving up its weapons and fleeing in a rout; what kind of equivalent
commitments or promises has it got from the United States in return
after all? [All we see] as of now is nothing but a blank check.
Some foreign affairs officers revealed that the U.S. side mentioned
at the negotiating table that '[the U.S. beef imports] would affect
the progress of Taiwan-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement
(TIFA) talks.' Should such remarks prove to be true, it already
constitutes some kind of intimidation and threat and is not a
quid-pro-quo at all. ... The Taiwan-U.S. beef talks this time have
resulted in making the prion protein, which endangers people's
physical and mental health, a ticking bomb that may go off any time.
What is the Ma administration planning to sell out next time when
Taiwan and China hold the talks on the Economic Cooperation
Framework Agreement?..."

B) "U.S. Beef vs. Independent Management by the Common People"

The KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 120,000] editorialized
(10/27):

"... One does not need [Taiwan] officials to put on a show to bet
their lives by eating T-bone steak and drinking beef offal soup to
guarantee to the public whether U.S. beef is safe to eat. What the
government should do is [to find out] if we have actually gone to
the United States to examine U.S. beef when the first batch of U.S.
beef is about to be imported into Taiwan? In terms of the many more
imported [beef] products in the future, the government should demand
that the United States establish a food production traceability
system, providing us with as much information as possible in terms
of every step starting from cattle raising, slaughter, packing and
labeling, so that the hesitant residents standing in front of the
beef vendors can make their choice.

"But up until now, except for the empty remarks by the Department of
Health regarding imposing strict examinations [of U.S. beef] and
irregular inspections in the United States, we have yet to see any
concrete moves [from the government]. The central government has
lost its ability to function, but what is fortunate is that the

local governments and private sectors have taken the initiative to
fill in [for the central government]. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin
fired the first shot by saying that he will work with restaurant
owners and beef importers to declare that they will never use U.S.
beef offal and ground beef. Also, [Hau] said he would see it as a
top priority to check on and control the lunches for the primary
students, a matter of high sensitivity to the parents all over the
country. His call has won immediate echoes from the leaders of
Taichung City and Kaohsiung City and County. In the face of the
threats posed by the mad cow disease, the reaction and practices of
the local governments are obviously closer to the public opinion
when compared with the central government which stresses 'economy
for the common people.' ..."

C) "How Much Should Taiwan Sacrifice for Trade and Economic
Liberation"

The pro-unification "Economic Daily News" [circulation: 150,000]
editorialized (10/27):

"The public has grown indignant in the face of the [government's
decision to] open the [Taiwan market to] imports of U.S. bone-in
beef, offal and ground beef; they even lambasted [the government's
decision] by saying that the decision has forfeited Taiwan's
sovereignty, humiliated our nation in total disregard of the lives
of the Taiwan people. But after a few days of settling and sinking
in, the inside story has gradually emerged: the decision was a
sacrifice made in pain to request that the United States agree to
sign a Trade and Investment Agreement [TIFA] with Taiwan. ...

"[When it comes to the beef deal,] it was just some U.S. ground beef
and offal and there are very few cases of mad cow disease as of now,
not to mention we can make the [beef imports] more transparent and
restrain its spread by using the power of the market. In
comparison, the beneficial effects [for Taiwan] of getting the TIFA
from the United States and using it as a breakthrough for [Taiwan]
to establish free trade and economic relations with other economic
regions are far too great. It cannot be viewed as a sacrifice at
all. ..."

D) "Don't Be Mad, Please"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (10/27):

"... For one thing, the protocol isn't an unequal treaty. It wasn't
forced upon Taiwan by the American Institute in Taiwan. The
representative of the MoD negotiated with her American counterpart
on an equal footing. Of course, opponents may pick faults, accusing
her of failing to protect Taiwan's public health against an
onslaught of mad cow disease. But the fact is that there won't be
any BSE invasion. Specified risk materials are placed under special
control. ... We wish to call on our public health-conscious
legislators not to worry. Their taking the administration to task
is already more than enough warning to even 'beef-eaters' -- not the
yeomen of the Tower of London -- not to risk a one-in-a-million
chance of getting mad cow disease by going to chic steak houses to
order a fat T-bone steak for dinner ...

"On the other hand, we are certain that the opposition is just
opposing for opposition's sake. Democratic Progressive Party
leaders, from its chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen on down, are more than
happy to seize what they believe is a golden opportunity to
embarrass President Ma Ying-jeou. Had the protocol been signed
while President Chen Shui-bian was in office, no one in the current
opposition would have raised any objections. Remember Chen recently
described himself as an agent of the U.S. military government on
Taiwan who had to take orders from the AIT in Taiwan? Please also
remember what the United States has done to help Taiwan become what
it is now. Without its help, there would be no Republic of China on
Taiwan. There would never have been any economic takeoff that
created many steak lovers here in the first place. The United
States is the only country in the world that may come to our help if
and when hostilities break out across the Taiwan Street. Taiwan
owes Uncle Sam so much that it should accept this benign protocol
that opponents have wrongfully described as treaty that humiliates
the country, willingly."

STANTON

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