|發表於: 星期四 一月 07, 2010 10:11 am 文章主題: Taiwan's U.S. Beef Taipei's reversal
|Taiwan's U.S. Beef
Taipei's reversal on a trade deal with Washington has little to do with science.
Mad cow disease has claimed another victim: Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who was for free trade in beef, until he was against it. Chalk the decision up to a political infection.
Scientists long ago proved that almost all U.S. beef is safe from the disease. Mr. Ma's administration and the one before it conducted independent tests and came to the same conclusion. In October, the Ma government signed a bilateral agreement that lifted all import bans on U.S. meat—a $128 million market and big step forward for re-establishing trust in an important trade relationship.
The legislative yuan partially reversed that decision Tuesday after the Taiwanese public, fanned by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, took to the streets with concerns over U.S. beef. Yet instead of standing by the science and asking his cabinet to send the measure back to the legislature (the Taiwanese veto equivalent), Mr. Ma let the decision stand, saying he "respected" the legislative decision. Mr. Ma didn't have a lot of room to maneuver because the legislature passed the bill unanimously, but he could have spoken against the bill as irresponsible.
The health of the U.S.-Taiwan trade relationship is the real cause for worry. The U.S. is Taiwan's third-largest trading partner. The beef dispute has already delayed trade talks scheduled in for February. Taiwan's minister of economic affairs said Tuesday that progress toward a broad bilateral free-trade agreement would be impeded by the delay. Congressmen Max Baucus (D., Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), from big beef-producing states, have also voiced worries about the move, ensuring that it will become a U.S. political concern.
The legislature's rejection of science-based trade standards also sets a bad precedent for future negotiations with the U.S. and other trade partners. If Taipei can ban beef that it's already deemed safe, what else can it ban on a whim?
Mr. Ma would have done better to stand up for the agreement his administration signed, however unpopular that move might have been. That's what South Korean president Lee Myung-bak did in 2008, even when protests over U.S. beef nearly derailed his presidency. Mr. Ma's policy reversal has only confirmed critics who accuse him of lacking leadership—a high price to pay for a political beef.