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

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #1306/01 3090827
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 050827Z NOV 09
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2628
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9473
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0887

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001306

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: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage November 5 on Premier Wu Den-yih, who was reported to have
traveled abroad with a local criminal gang leader in 2008; on the
controversy and aftermath of the Taiwan government's decision to
allow the import of U.S. beef and beef products; and on developments
in cross-Strait relations.

2. Editorials and op-ed pieces in Taiwan's dailies continued to
focus on the controversy caused by U.S. beef imports. An op-ed in
the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" alleged that the Ma
administration's decision to allow U.S. beef imports was a move to
compensate the United States for keeping quiet about a series of
actions by the Ma administration to damage human rights in Taiwan.
An editorial in the KMT-leaning "China Times" said the Legislative
Yuan's move to amend the law to block the import of U.S. beef offal
and ground beef has shown disrespect to the United States and will
create risks in future U.S.-Taiwan relations. A separate "China
Times" op-ed piece said the U.S. beef controversy is no longer an
issue about food safety but an extension of nationalistic awareness,
after the WTO talks, to oppose opening Taiwan's market to any
imported agricultural products. An editorial in the China-focused
"Want Daily," however, criticized a statement recently issued by the
Office of U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Department of
Agriculture on U.S. beef imports to Taiwan. The article said
Washington has put additional pressure on the Ma administration,
which has been trying its utmost to defend U.S. beef imports, and
the move does not meet the interests of Taiwan and the United
States. An editorial in the pro-independence, English-language
"Taipei Times" lambasted the Ma administration's opaque and
peremptory handling the U.S. beef imports and said the same model
will likely be applied when Taiwan talks with China about an
Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement. End summary.

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A) "U.S. Beef, Taiwan's Human Rights"

Huang Chi-yao, a visiting researcher at the Max-Planck Institute,
opined in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000]
(11/5):

"... First, the major problem with the 'Protocol on U.S. Beef
Imports to Taiwan' is that the Ma administration has unexpectedly
handed the right over the health of its people to another country.
[The Ma administration] has surprisingly handed [the right over to]
the United States to determine whether the imported [U.S.] beef
[carries the risk of] mad cow disease, abandoning the line of
defense for the safety [of its people] by merely saying that
[Taiwan] will stop importing [the U.S. beef] should any such disease
cases be uncovered. [The move] is akin to [allowing others to] run
experiments on the living bodies [of the Taiwan people] while there
is no preventive mechanism set up in advance. ... What's even worse
is that Taiwan does not have the right to determine and call a halt
to the beef imports!

"... Therefore, if [we are to] talk about opening [Taiwan's market
to U.S. beef], it has to be the United States that provides evidence
showing that its exported beef carries no disease, which will then
be examined and verified by Taiwan before it is allowed to be
imported. ... Also, based on Taiwan's public health concerns, Taiwan
has the right to ban any beef imports that carry the risk of
contracting mad cow disease. ... Basically, the Ma administration's
premeditated decision to allow the import of U.S. beef was a move to
compensate the United States for keeping quiet about a series of
actions taken since Ma assumed office to damage [Taiwan's]
administrative and judicial human rights. In that vein, the
decision to open Taiwan's market to U.S. beef was also made at the
expense of harming Taiwan's human rights, which will hardly win
emotional recognition from the Taiwan people and will therefore
affect its marketing on the island. As such, the resolution lies in
a stronger push for the Ma administration to improve [Taiwan's]
human rights and rectify its China-tilting policy. Only when
democracy and human rights are realized [in Taiwan] can the value of
U.S. beef be truly demonstrated!"

B) "Be Careful Not to Get Stuck in a Situation 'from Which There Is
No Easy Retreat'"

The KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 120,000] editorialized
(11/5):

"... Even though the talks this time over the import of U.S. beef
offal and ground beef had been going on for seventeen months, [the
Ma administration] has failed to properly communicate with the
legislative body before it made the final decision. Even
high-ranking decision-making officials in the Executive Yuan were
kept in the dark. Anything that [the Ma administration] did after
that to try to fix the problem already seemed farfetched. Lawmakers
across party lines have all joined together to seek to amend the law
to block the import of U.S. beef offal and ground beef. [Such a
development] has not only slapped the face of the [Taiwan]

representatives [talking with the United States] but has also shown
disrespect to the big boss the United States. Surely this will
create some risks in terms of Taiwan-U.S. relations in the future.
..."

C) "Different Decision-making Models, but Same Predicament"

Chan Shou-chung, a former congressional aide, opined in the
KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 120,000] (11/5):

"... It is a fact well-know to everyone that opening Taiwan's market
to U.S. beef is one of the agricultural products that Taiwan has to
sacrifice in the wake of Taiwan's participation in the World Trade
Organization (WTO). The controversy over U.S. beef is no longer a
matter about food safety or [lack of] communication about
[government] policies. Instead, it is an extension of nationalistic
awareness, after the WTO talks, to oppose opening [Taiwan's market]
to any [imported] agricultural products, and this is the same case
for Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. ... Nonetheless, as long as
[Taiwan imposes] limitations, the U.S. pressure to open [the Taiwan
market] will remain constant, and 'full opening' is a decision that
will have to be made sooner or later. ..."

D) "The United States Should Learn from Hu Jintao's Political
Wisdom"

The China-focused "Want Daily" [circulation: 10,000] editorialized
(11/5):

"The U.S. Trade Representative Office (USTR) and the U.S. Department
of Agriculture (DOA) said the other day that the United States has
started to review whether Taiwan's measures to examine the imports
[of U.S. beef] are consistent with the 'Protocol on U.S. Beef
Imports to Taiwan' and with relevant international standards. Given
that the [Taiwan] government's decision to expand U.S. beef imports
has become a political issue, the U.S. move was akin to making a bad
situation worse, putting more pressure on President Ma Ying-jeou.
Judging from the bigger picture of the Asia-Pacific, Washington's
additional pressure on the Ma administration has not only failed to
meet Taiwan's interests but also those of the Taiwan Strait and the
United States. ...

"... [USTR's] statement sounds mild, but in fact it carries the
meaning of a threat. It states very clearly that [Washington] will
put pressure on the Ma administration, and it has the sense that the
United States will retaliate as long as [Taiwan] fails to cease
[imposing] the 'additional domestic measures.' ... Also, the USTR
and DOA's statement on the controversy of U.S. beef is not kind and
considerate to the Ma administration, which has been trying its
utmost to defend the expanded imports of U.S. beef. ...

"Finally, the Ma administration's grand strategy toward Taiwan, the
United States and China is to strengthen trade and economic
relations with mainland China on the one hand and, on the other, to
reinforce the United States' security commitment toward Taiwan. The
U.S. beef is a non-traditional safety issue, and of course it is
very important, but it should not harm the normal development of
Taiwan-U.S.-China relations. In terms of the Dalai Lama's recent
visit to Taiwan, even though Beijing was displeased, it did not vent
its anger against the Ma administration which offered the Dalai Lama
a visa. Perhaps the Obama administration should learn from the
political wisdom of [Chinese President] Hu Jintao."

E) "Can ECFA Negotiations Be Trusted?"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (11/5):

"The government's atrocious handling of the expansion of US beef
imports -- opaque, peremptory and confused, regardless of the merits
of the products -- is becoming a real cause for concern in terms of
the bigger picture: cross-strait detente, and particularly a
proposed economic pact with China. ... One legacy of the US beef
controversy is that many more people have little or no confidence in
the government's ability to negotiate with China without
jeopardizing Taiwan's interests. Case in point No. 1: Department of
Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang had promised that only US bone-in
beef would be allowed into the country. But it turned out the
protocol with the US also allowed ground beef, intestines, brains
and spinal cords. ...

"In an attempt to ease anger at the relaxation of US beef imports,
the government said it would implement strict safety checks to
ensure that imports are not contaminated. This rather tricky -- not
to mention ad hoc -- approach to administrative duties can only
prompt doubts as to whether an ECFA would trigger a range of policy
U-turns and last-minute, superficial customs-control measures -- and
all in the absence of adequate information for the public, let alone
a public consensus. Case in point No. 2: Premier Wu Den-yih said

the signing of any cross-strait agreements, including an ECFA, would
respect the need for public support and legislative oversight. But
if the government can act in obvious defiance of a legislative
resolution passed in 2006 that required the Department of Health to
report in detail to the legislature before lifting bans on US beef,
what is to be made of such commitments from the premier?

"On Oct. 23, the department announced that Taiwan had signed an
accord with the US agreeing to relax curbs on US bone-in beef and
cow organs. Yet, as of yesterday, a majority of the public is being
kept in the dark on the details of the protocol because the
government has not issued a Chinese translation. Once again, this
cavalier attitude toward ordinary people only raises suspicion as to
how open and trustworthy any agreements between this China-friendly
government and Beijing will be. The government set a precedent of
obliviousness by suddenly easing bans on US beef imports without due
preparation and public consultation. This sorry episode is now
signaling the need to place sustained pressure on the government to
keep its ECFA dealings transparent. Otherwise, the next sudden
announcement from the government might be a very destructive one,
indeed."

STANTON

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