Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Beef Imports to Taiwan
DE RUEHIN #1284/01 3060928
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020928Z NOV 09
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2586
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9461
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0876
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001284
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: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies continued to
focus news coverage from October 31 through November 2 on the
"storm" over the Taiwan government's decision to allow the import of
U.S. beef, offal and spinal cords and its aftermath; on the alleged
game fixing by several Taiwan professional baseball players; and on
the developments in cross-Strait relations.
2. Editorials and op-ed pieces in Taiwan's major Chinese-language
dailies continued to lash out at the Ma Ying-jeou administration's
decision to allow the import of U.S. beef, while some called for a
referendum to be held and the Legislative Yuan to take strong
actions against the decision. A column in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" lambasted the Ma administration's decision and said
it is the Taiwan people's health that will be harmed by allowing the
imports of U.S. beef offal. A DPP legislator wrote in a "Liberty
Times" op-ed that Ma's decision to make concessions to the United
States proved that his 'diplomatic truce' doctrine has fallen apart.
An op-ed piece in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" said that
because Taiwan's domestic law has precedence, Taiwan should
renegotiate the U.S. beef imports with the United States. An
editorial in the KMT-leaning "China Times" said Taiwan should have
learned its lesson from its previous WTO talks over rice wine. An
column in the China-focused "Want Daily" said President Ma has not
only failed to gain any political interests in allowing the imports
of U.S. beef but might possibly sacrifice the health of Taiwan
people. An editorial in the conservative, pro-unification,
English-language "China Post" said the beef war is over, with nobody
being the winner. End summary.
A) "Where Is the Beef Offal?"
The "Free Talk" column in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
[circulation: 680,000] wrote (11/1):
'... 'Where is the beef offal?' -- this question has also hit the
vital point of Ma Ying-jeou; Ma opened [Taiwan's market] to U.S.
beef offal; he is more than willing to lose his pants to show
weakness to the United States in an attempt to use this as an excuse
for his bowing down to China when signing the Economic Cooperation
Framework Agreement (ECFA) [with Beijing in the near future]. But
it is the [Taiwan] people's health that will be harmed [if Taiwan]
allows the import of U.S. beef offal that has the risk of [carrying]
mad cow disease. When signing the ECFA with China and thus allowing
China to directly control Taiwan's economy, what will be sold out
will be [Taiwan's] national sovereignty!"
B) "The Ma Administration's Diplomatic Slaughterhouse"
DPP Legislator Ke Chien-min opined in the pro-independence "Liberty
Times" [circulation: 680,000] (10/31):
"President Ma announced openly that in order to resume talks on the
Taiwan-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), a free
trade agreement, and an extradition agreement between Taiwan and the
United States, or further, [for Taiwan] to be included in the U.S.
visa waiver program, [Taiwan] has no other alternative but to make
concessions during its talks with Washington over U.S. beef. Such a
statement is not only a public announcement [telling us] that [Ma's]
'diplomatic true] doctrine has already fallen apart but also an
excuse to shift [the Taiwan people's] focus and to evade [the Ma
administration's] responsibility for its failure to [defend Taiwan's
interests] during the beef talks. ...
"The warning signal revealed by the talks over U.S. beef this time
was that the Ma administration has now lost its balance in terms of
strategic relations among Taiwan, the United States and China. As a
matter of fact, the more that the Ma administration tilts toward
China in terms of the strategic equilibrium among Taiwan, the United
States and China, the more it will arouse doubts from the United
States. Such a development will only result in a vicious cycle of
[Taiwan's] losing its bargaining chips in talking with the United
States. It appears now that the so-called diplomatic truce [policy]
has already been killed by the converging attacks by the United
States and China. ..."
C) "Surely [We] Can Scrap the Agreement and Renegotiate [the Import
of U.S. Beef]"
Professor Chiang Huang-chih of National Taiwan University's College
of Law opined in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation:
"What is incredibly horrible in terms of the 'Protocol on U.S. Beef
Imports to Taiwan' is at least the following two [items]: First,
the full opening of [Taiwan's market to] the highest risk materials
[in U.S. beef], including brain, spinal column, offal, and ground
beef (General Requirements 18). Second, giving up [Taiwan's] rights
to protect its people the minute something really happens! When the
United States uncovers any mad cow disease case, our country
originally had the authority to ban imports of U.S. beef
immediately, as was the case before. But under the 'protocol,'
Taiwan has no right to ban U.S. beef imports; it cannot act until
the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) determines the case
based on the investigation report filed by the United States
(General Requirements 3). What the Minister of Health claimed so
righteously '[Taiwan] will immediately stop imports [of U.S. beef]
once [BSE] case is uncovered in Taiwan' is obviously too optimistic.
Based on the 'protocol,' even if there were 100 such cases, let
alone one, and one can prove they were caused by U.S. beef, Taiwan
still has 'no right' to ban U.S. beef imports; [Taiwan's] every move
must depend on U.S. goodwill and be determined by an international
organization. Is it a must that such a 'protocol' be implemented?
The [Ma] administration determined that 'the deal is signed and
cannot be scrapped.' All Taiwan government officials said
unanimously that once [Taiwan and the United States] renegotiate
[the beef issue], it will do severe damage to [Taiwan's] prestige in
the international community. 'But is it truly so?' ..."
D) "Why Do U.S. Mad Cows Put Taiwan People on the Verge of
Cyrus C. Y. Chu, Distinguished Research Fellow at the Academia
Sinica's Institute of Economics, wrote in the "Hall of Fame" column
in the pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
"Taiwan-U.S. talks on reopening the imports of U.S. beef have
triggered a huge storm lately, and the cause of the storm was that
the Americans requested that [Taiwan] open to imports of U.S. beef
bone, ground beef, beef offal. Many of Taiwan's experts have
concerns about this aspect. An AIT official said, the chances are
slim for people to contract mad cow disease by eating beef, and the
rate for that was far lower that the risks of scooter accidents.
[Taiwan's] Cabinet officials also said the chance of getting ill
because of eating imported beef is one in a hundred millions. But
the Taiwan people obviously cannot recognize such arguments, as
evidenced in the way that the boycott movement launched by the
Taipei City and other local governments have been echoed by many
people [around the island]. ...
"Washington believes that 'expanding' the imported [beef] items [to
Taiwan] would be beneficial for the United States, but the truth
says the opposite. Expanding the imported [beef] products to
include the risky ones while the consumers have no knowledge of
which ones are risky and which are not, it will generate the effect
of 'a speck of rat dung spoiling a whole pot of porridge.' ..."
E) "Lessons Learned from Rice Wine to Beef"
The KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 120,000] editorialized
"... In terms of the expanded import of U.S. beef, the [Taiwan]
authorities said expanding the import of U.S. beef has become a
stepping stone for talks between Taiwan and the United States, and
that there is no way both sides can talk further unless the beef
issue is resolved. Such an argument sounded exactly the same as
what the Taiwan government said when it was anxious to enter the
World Trade Organization and thus had to make concessions over
[locally made] rice wine. It seemed to indicate that when it comes
to trade and economic talks with its rival countries in the future,
all Taiwan can do is to let others take what they want. ... From
rice wine to beef, because of the beautiful vision of trade
liberalization, the government has failed to play the role of a
gatekeeper for the interests of its people during the process of
trade talks [with other countries]. It has also underestimated the
negative impact its decision might have on society. ..."
F) "Taiwan Political Leaders Must Develop New Thinking"
Nanfang Shuo (pseudonym for Wang Hsing-ching), a political
commentator and cultural critic, wrote in a column in the China
focused "Want Daily" [circulation: 100,000] (11/2):
"... For now, the global consensus toward cross-Strait issues is to
maintain the status quo; even China cannot violate such a global
consensus by trying to forcefully alter the status quo across the
Taiwan Strait. As a result, there will not be any fundamental
changes to the United States' fixed policy toward Taiwan just
because of minor interests such as [Taiwan's] opening its market to
U.S. beef. Ma Ying-jeou followed the previous old thinking of
taking care of U.S. interests first, because he does not understand
the basic agenda of the international situation, and that's why he
has failed to resist [U.S.] pressure. In reality, it will not harm
Taiwan's national interests if Taiwan adopts a tough attitude on the
U.S. beef issue; all that will be impacted will be Ma's and Su Chi's
personal relations with the United States, such as the treatment
they will receive when they transit in the United States in the
future. The Ma administration has not only failed to gain any
political interest from its decision to allow U.S. beef imports, but
it may have sacrificed the health of the Taiwan people. ..."
G) "The Beef War Is Over with No Winners"
Columnist Joe Hung wrote in his column in the conservative,
pro-unification, English-language "China Post" [circulation: 30,000]
"The beef war is over. And nobody is the winner. ... The outcome
is that the administration has lost face for failure to exercise due
disaster control; the opposition party did not succeed in
startlingly embarrassing the government, for risky beef was first
allowed to enter Taiwan while President Chen Shui-bian was in
office; and Uncle Sam has unwittingly alienated the people of Taiwan
who believe the Americans are their best friends abroad. There is
no need whatsoever for the Americans to estrange the people of
Taiwan by helping cattle raisers to earn a few million dollars more
a year by selling ground and bone-in beef as well as offal. ..."