REFERENDUMS 2021/KMT official defends anti-ractopamine vote as mainstream stance

A Kuomintang (KMT) official has defended the party's backing of a referendum that would ban the import of pork products containing ractopamine while acknowledging that passage of the vote could affect Taiwan's trade talks with the United States.

Eric Huang (???), who was recently appointed deputy director of the KMT's Department of International Affairs, said in an online interview Thursday that the KMT's action reflected the mainstream of Taiwanese society and should not be mistaken as taking an "anti-U.S." stance.

In a poll conducted by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation from Oct. 18 to 20, 68.1 percent of respondents express support for the initiative while 25.7 percent opposed it.

Huang said he understood that passage of the referendum could lead the Office of the United States Trade Representative to bring talks between Taiwan and the U.S. under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement to a halt.

But he believed that referendum will allow Taiwanese to decide what should carry more weight -- rejecting pork products with ractopamine or supporting the TIFA process -- and he felt the KMT should represent mainstream opinion.

Later Thursday, however, the KMT issued a statement saying a ban on imports of pork containing ractopamine should not affect Taiwan's economic and trade interactions with other countries.

Food safety and people's health remain the KMT's priorities, the statement said, and the party wants to reject pork products with ractopamine but does not oppose the U.S.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government lifted the ban on pork imports containing the controversial livestock drug at the beginning of this year, hoping that it will pave the way for negotiating a free trade deal with the U.S.

The KMT later initiated a referendum proposal in the hope of overturning the decision. The motion eventually cleared two hurdles and is now scheduled to be voted on Dec. 18.

Ractopamine is still banned for use in Taiwan despite the opening to meat imports containing it, and it is also banned by the European Union and China.

The DPP called meat with ractopamine "toxic" when it opposed efforts by the then-KMT government in the early 2010s to allow beef with ractopamine to reopen TIFA talks with the U.S. and has insisted on zero-tolerance for ractopamine in pork until 2020.

Commenting on the referendum Friday, Premier Su Tseng-chang (???) said Taiwan needed to follow international trade rules if it wished to further its economic ties and boost trade with other countries.

He argued that the vote will also affect Taiwan's application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, as the bloc's 11 signatory countries have all approved the import of pork products with ractopamine.

Su did not offer any evidence, however, indicating that meat containing ractopamine would be an issue in potential CPTPP negotiations.

He said the government's decision to ease restrictions on pork imports had complied with international food sanitation standards.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel