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


DE RUEHIN #1290/01 3070931
R 030931Z NOV 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused
November 3 news coverage on Shim Nakagomi, former coach of the
Brother Elephants baseball team, who was involved in the game fixing
scandal in the Taiwan professional baseball league and who attempted
to leave Taiwan on Monday but was detained by the National
Immigration Agency at Taiwan's Taoyuan International Airport. Most
newspapers also had extensive coverage on the Taiwan authorities'
formal announcement to ease restrictions on the import of U.S. beef
products. Newspapers were concerned about the safety of President
Ma Ying-jeou, after a Fokker 50 VIP transport plane trailed smoke
and sparks as it landed in Taichung with President Ma on board on

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, editorials in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" and the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times," a sister newspaper of the "Liberty
Times," had contradictory views about a signature drive launched by
the Consumers' Foundation and other civic groups to hold a
referendum that would require the government to renegotiate with the
United States on the beef issue. The "Liberty Times" editorial
urged the public to support the drive to launch a referendum in
order to overturn the protocol signed between Taiwan and the United
States. The "Taipei Times" editorial instead criticized the
Consumers' Foundation as an organization which "over the years has
launched consumer crusades of dubious priority and zero scientific
rigor." The "Taipei Times" editorial said a referendum on beef is
"the most absurd suggestion for a referendum topic to date." End

A) "Using a Referendum to Deny the Ma Ying-jeou Administration's
'Compulsion' against the Whole People"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000]
editorialized (11/3):

"... Why did [President] Ma Ying-jeou give up....during the
negotiations with the United States [on the issue of beef] without
receiving any substantial benefit from the United States? The
explanation that he [President Ma] gave during an interview with a
magazine may reflect what was on his mind. He said, 'many people
were worried that we were leaning too heavily toward the mainland
because we have improved relations with them. However, after
opening [Taiwan's market] to [U.S.] beef, Taiwan could improve [its]
relations with the United States. This further indicated that we
have removed an important obstacle lying between Taiwan and the
United States.' In order to demonstrate that [he] was not leaning
toward China, he gave Taiwan's interests to the United States,
rather than taking [interests for Taiwan from the United States].
If this 'equilibrium' is logical, does this equal an admission that
he has been ladling out [Taiwan's resources] to China over the past
year? However, the other side [of the Taiwan Strait] must have seen
all this with its own eyes after [Taiwan] accorded these benefits to
the United States. What will the 'Chief Executive of China's Taipei
Special Administrative Region' give China in the next phase? Is
[Ma] going to make a cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework
Agreement (ECFA) a foregone conclusion following the precedent [of
U.S. beef] as well? Ma Ying-jeou caused Taiwan to fall into this
plight as a result of being extorted by the two hegemonies. Won't
the seven million voters who helped him win the presidency regret

"Indeed, it is too late to regret. It is useless to simply feel
regret. At this point, in order to overrule the 'revisions to the
regulations on the import of U.S. beef,' the most effective way is
to propose a referendum and let people use direct civic rights to
overturn the government's executive order. ..."

B) "A Plebiscite on a Petty Beef?"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (11/3):

"... Joining these disingenuous legislators, councilors and party
hacks in their attacks on US beef are a number of interest groups
whose contributions to the debate have been uninformed,
unintelligent and even deceitful. The main offender is the
Consumers' Foundation, which over the years has launched consumer
crusades of dubious priority and zero scientific rigor.

"If this organization applied its ferocious strictness on US beef
imports to all other health matters affecting consumers, it would
extend its campaign to instituting bans on imports and local
production of alcohol and tobacco, introduce bans on betel nuts,
motor scooters, sports cars, meat with high levels of fat and night
market food. This would just be the start. The fact that the
Consumers' Foundation does not engage in such quixotic behavior
points to opportunism and cynicism, not a sense of proportion or
respect of the right consumers should enjoy to choose what they wish
to consume.

"This week the debate has raised the specter of that tactical
chestnut of the Chen Shui-bian presidency, the referendum, as a
possible new front for opponents of US beef - as if prime rib and
sirloin were a fit and proper subject for a plebiscite.

"This gratuitous use of the referendum - not as a gauge of popular
opinion but as a threat to intimidate governments away from actions
within their administrative mandate - is no less cynical and inept
than the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) attempts to solve
political problems through a mechanism that would override the
legislature. ...

"The prospect of a national referendum on beef is about the most
absurd suggestion for a referendum topic to date, although the DPP's
suggestion that a referendum be held to assess whether a certain
referendum topic be held comes a close second. This is a health
issue, not a political issue, but the way that this situation is
developing augurs the overriding of individual choice by interest
groups with no health expertise, let alone an understanding of the
US beef industry. ..."


© Scoop Media

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