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

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #1268/01 3011000
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 281000Z OCT 09
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2553
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9453
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0868

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001268

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

1. Summary: On October 28, the Taiwan government's decision to open
its market to U.S. beef continued to receive extensive coverage in
Taiwan's print media. Major Chinese-language and English-language
dailies reported that dozens of trade organizations and hundreds of
stores and restaurants in Taipei and other cities have signed up for
an alliance launched by Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin to reject the
sale of U.S. beef offal, ground beef and spinal cords. All these
major papers also reported on the remarks by AIT Director William
Stanton Tuesday defending the safety of U.S. beef. The KMT-leaning
"China Times" ran a banner headline on page four regarding the
results of its latest opinion survey, reading "Beef Offal Storm: 72
Percent [of Those Polled] Criticize the United States as Tyrannical;
Ma's Approval Rating Drops Suddenly by 14 Percent."

2. All the major dailies carried editorials and op-ed pieces on U.S.
beef imports. Two separate columns in the mass-circulation "Apple
Daily" severely criticized the Ma administration's "horrible"
decision-making model and "absurd" argument in allowing the import
of U.S. beef and offal. A column in the pro-unification "United
Daily News" said the United States will surely "lose a lot by just
trying to gain a little" on the beef issue. A "United Daily News"
editorial discussed U.S. beef imports and criticized the Ma
administration's handling of the issue. An op-ed in the
KMT-leaning, China-focused "Want Daily" expressed concern about the
Taiwan government's "spineless" position in the face of U.S.
pressure. End summary.

A) "Negotiations That Cost One to Lose One's Pants"

Columnist Antonio Chiang wrote in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
[circulation: 520,000] (10/28):

"... The [Taiwan] Presidential Office, in an attempt to mislead the
public and solicit sympathy, put out words to imply that [the
decision on U.S.] beef imports is related to [Taiwan's joining] the
visa-waiver program and the signing of a Taiwan-U.S. Trade and
Investment [Framework] Agreement. In reality, however, these are
two separate issues. There are objective criteria for getting the
visa-waiver treatment, including the rates of [people] violating the
relevant visa regulations and committing crimes in the United
States. Taiwan has yet to meet all these criteria, so there is no
way [it can be included in the visa-waiver program] no matter how
much beef it imports. Talks over a Taiwan-U.S. Trade and Investment
[Framework] Agreement have been going on for many years, which
involves [many] complicated issues. [The attempt to] link the
agreement with [U.S.] beef is nothing but an excuse for
self-rationalization.

"Some people claim that Taiwan's economy must not rely too heavily
on mainland China, and that by allowing the import of U.S. beef it
can help to balance the triangular relationship between Taiwan, the
United States and China and prevent [Taiwan] from tilting overly
toward mainland China. Such arguments are akin to putting the cart
before the horse and are totally nonsensical. ... The talks with
the Americans over [U.S.] beef have caused Taiwan to lose its pants.
Taiwan may lose more than its pants if the same bunch of people
talk with Beijing over the [signing of] the Economic Cooperation
Framework Agreement."

B) "A Horrible Decision-making Model"

The "Spicy Apple" column in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
[circulation: 520,000] (10/28):

"... It is true that the Ma administration has suffered pressure
from the United States to open [its market to U.S. beef]. It is
also true that Taiwan cannot live without the United States as its
friend. But the question is: True, this is the [unfavorable]
position that Taiwan is in; but did the Ma administration intend to
tell its people that its decision-making model is to not appeal to
public opinion? Perhaps the Ma administration has forgotten that
public opinion is the strongest buttress when facing a predicament.
Taiwan's legislative body may not enjoy a very good image, but when
it comes to [Taiwan's] policy towards U.S. beef, a legislative body
that is well-known for its fist-fighting and causing trouble may be
the best weapon that [Taiwan] can wield. Even the mayor of
[Taiwan's] capital city has taken the lead to express opposition [to
the U.S. beef imports], with the restaurant owners following suit --
this is public opinion.

"The United States is a democracy, and it has to take Taiwan's
public opinion seriously when negotiating [with the island]. [We]
can hardly imagine that the Ma administration, to everyone's
surprise, has cast the handy and effective tool of public opinion
aside and just quietly come to a decision to open [Taiwan's market]
to U.S. beef. ..."

C) "U.S. Beef vs. Taiwan People"

The "Short Commentary" column in the pro-unification "United Daily
News" [circulation: 40,000] (10/28):

"... The United States is a typical Western cowboy. The European
Union and South Korea have all opened their markets to U.S. bone-in
beef under U.S. pressure. It goes without saying that Taiwan cannot
be allowed to stand alone and act differently. Our government, in
consideration of Taiwan's overall national interests, actually has
its difficulties and thus has no alternative but to open its market
[to U.S. beef]. Export-oriented Taiwan may lose its advantage if
the United States decides to play tough by imposing trade sanctions
[against the island]. Nonetheless, the United States has the power
to force the Taiwan government to yield, but it cannot force the
Taiwan people to open their mouths. As long as we refuse to eat
[U.S. beef], there is nothing the Americans can do. ...

"U.S. beef [imports] this time is akin to repeating the mistake of
the [U.S.] turkey [years ago], and it has aroused the Taiwan
people's aversion even before it has been imported. What is even
worse is the shadow of [contracting] mad cow disease. How can such
negative products enjoy high sales in the market? ... Frankly
speaking, for the U.S. beef issue, the United States will surely
lose a lot by trying to gain a little. U.S. beef steaks are usually
expensive and delicious, and are very popular [in Taiwan]. But once
it is contaminated by the beef offal, perhaps few would dare to eat
U.S. steaks. Are these smart trade talks?"

D) "U.S. Beef Issue: Hau Lung-bin and McDonalds"

The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 40,000]
editorialized (10/28):

"Two developments in the U.S. beef issue are quite enlightening:
one is the 'self-management alliance' launched by [Taipei Mayor] Hau
Lung-bin, and the other is businesses like McDonalds starting to
declare that they will not use U.S. beef. Hau has grasped the
essence of 'politics of the common people,' while McDonalds is
astute about the secrets of 'economics for the common people.' By
contrast, the practices of the Ma administration were akin to
turning itself into the public enemy of the 'common people politics'
and 'common people economics.' Who would have thought [such a
development would happen]? ..."

E) "Deep Concerns over the Import of U.S. Beef"

Wu Rong-yuan, convener of the Preparatory Committee for the Forum on
Cross-Strait Peaceful Development, opined in the KMT-leaning,
China-focused "Want Daily" [circulation: 10,000] (10/28):

"... Sources said that the U.S. side has used the Trade and
Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and the so-called arms sales
for 'balanced defense' as its bargaining chips to coerce and lure
Taiwan to yield [in the beef talks]. These are the means that the
United States has habitually used, so they are not at all
surprising. The question lies after all in the [Taiwan]
government's criteria in making its policy and its policy direction.
Taiwan's [decision to] fully open itself to U.S. beef simply
reflected the island's long-standing reliance on the United States.
Given the [Taiwan] government's spineless position where it forfeits
its own principles in the face of the United States, one cannot help
but wonder when it comes to the development of cross-Strait
relations, whether the progress in peaceful development across the
Strait, made with great difficulties via the '1992 consensus,' will
be jeopardized by the United States' strategic interference of
'using Taiwan to restrain China?' ..."

STANTON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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