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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Beef Imports

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #1529/01 3630938
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 290938Z DEC 09
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3015
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9586
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0973

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001529

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

Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused December
29 news coverage on Taiwan's economy, which showed signs of
sustained recovery for the first time in 25 months; on the aftermath
of the fourth round of cross-Strait negotiations; and on the
discussion in the Legislative Yuan regarding possible legislation
restricting U.S. beef imports. In terms of editorials and
commentaries, an op-ed in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
provided several principles for the Taiwan government and public to
"fight against" the U.S.-Taiwan beef deal. An op-ed in the
pro-unification "United Daily News," however, urged the legislators
from both the ruling and opposition parties not to oppose the deal
just for the sake of opposition. End summary.

A) "The Key to Fight against the [U.S.-Taiwan] Beef [Deal] Lies in
the Last Paragraph of the Protocol"

Former Environmental Protection Administration Minister Winston Dang
opined in the pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation:
680,000] (12/29):

"When the time has come for the final stage of law amendments
concerning U.S. beef [imports], the Ma administration still hopes to
use [the phrase] offshore [beef] 'inspection' to replace that of
'blocking [U.S. beef] outside the border.' The Ma administration
has also continued to call on the public in a threatening tone....to
jointly assume the burden of the consequences of offending the
United States. The following principles are provided for the
[public's] reference to teach them how to fight against the 'beef'
[deal]:

"First, fighting a decisive battle outside the border: As for
national security, the best policy for [maintaining] food safety is
to fight a decisive battle outside the border. U.S. beef has been
regarded as a food product harmful to people's health, so it leaves
[us] no other options but to amend the laws to block it outside the
border and to start renegotiating [a new deal]. Second, do not make
[the wording] vague: When it comes to 'inspection,' it is unlikely
that the U.S. government will allow 'any foreigner or foreign
officials' to exercise such authority that is exclusive to U.S.
officials. ... Third, do not fear [U.S.] retaliation: The Ministry
of Foreign Affairs said the United States will likely adopt
'economic retaliation' [against Taiwan], such as refusing to resume
talks under the Taiwan-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement
(TIFA). But according to former [Taiwan] officials stationed in the
United States, Taipei and Washington have had digital video
conferences on TIFA since 2007; what the two sides lacked was just
sitting down and talking face-to-face with each other.

"Fourth, do not be worried about the U.S. attitude: The U.S. side
is clearly aware that blocking [U.S. beef] outside the border will
only cause them to lose....approximately US$2 million. By imposing
'economic retaliation' or by 'not supporting Taiwan's participation
in international organizations' for such a small amount of money, it
will trigger a backlash from the Taiwan public and push them to
refuse to eat U.S. beef all the more (which will end up being a
[much larger] loss, including both boneless and bone-in beef). What
is worse is that it will likely spark anti-U.S. sentiment, which is
rare among the Taiwan people. Fifth, it is all about Ma again:
U.S. beef is a simple food safety issue. Yet it is the ignorance
and arrogance of [Taiwan's] National Security Council (NSC)
officials in charge of the [U.S.-Taiwan beef] deal; their disregard
for the importance of communication and transparency concerning the
risks of food safety policies; and their black-box operations, which
have set off the anti-U.S. beef sentiment in society. Washington
should be clearly aware that it is all about 'Ma,' not the 'beef.'

"Sixth, do not let others look down on us: The series of
administrative measures adopted by the Department of Health are
merely moves centering on technically interfering [with the U.S.
beef imports] -- an attempt to make up for the mistakes the NSC has
made. Such childish, petty tricks or playing with words will not
only waste the taxpayers' money but also violate the Taiwan-U.S.
[beef] protocol, the commitments made under the World Trade
Organization, and the foundation of mutual trust built upon the
international practices. Such moves by the Ma administration, which
is feeling good about itself, will only make foreigners look down on
us.

"Seventh, [now] is a good opportunity for renegotiating [with the
United States]: In fact, according to the last paragraph of the
[U.S.-Taiwan beef] protocol -- 'shall hold consultations within 180
days of the effective date of the protocol to review its
implementation,' both sides can take this opportunity to review [the
deal] in an effort to prevent any controversy caused by the failure
to communicate [thoroughly] over the possible risks. ..."

B) "No U.S. Beef, and No ECFA; What Does Taiwan Want?"

Professor Edward Chen from Tamkang University's Graduate Institute
of American Studies opined in the mass-circulation "United Daily
News" [circulation: 400,000] (12/29):

"... With regard to the U.S. beef issue, it is true that the
[Taiwan] government had a lapse in communicating sufficiently within
the government itself and with the Legislative Yuan. When it comes
to the matter of [signing] the Economic Cooperation Framework
Agreement (ECFA) [with China], the [Taiwan] government also fell
short in communicating with the ruling and opposition parties and
making publicity that hit the mark. Nonetheless, both the ruling
and opposition legislators must not oppose [the U.S.-Taiwan beef
deal and ECFA] just for the sake of opposition, because Taiwan
cannot afford to have neither the U.S. beef deal nor ECFA -- that
would mean opposing both the United States and China. For the
ruling party legislators in particular, they must never abandon
their party line, because if our country is beaten, all our people
will suffer."

MADISON

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