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Delegation to U.S. will observe rather than explain: Premier

ROC Central News Agency

2010/01/01 17:31:25
Taipei, Jan. 1 (CNA) Premier Wu Den-yih insisted Friday that legislation that would overturn parts of a protocol on beef imports from United States will not affect arms sales to Taiwan, but a professor and a former diplomat said it would deal a serious blow to Taiwan's credibility.

The Legislative Yuan reached a consensus Wednesday to pass an amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation on Jan. 5 that will ban imports of beef offal and ground beef from areas where cases of mad cow disease have been documented over the previous 10 years, including the United States.

Though the legislation contravenes the beef trade protocol Taipei and Washington signed in October and has drawn a stern rebuke from the U.S., the premier dismissed speculation that it will adversely affect planned U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan.

"Under the Taiwan Relations Act, (potential retaliation) will not involve shelving arms sales to Taiwan," Wu stressed.

Taiwan plans to send a delegation to the U.S. that was originally planned as an effort to mitigate the fallout from the legislation, but the premier said Friday the delegation will mainly observe rather than explain Taiwan's stance.

The delegation, likely to be comprised of legislators and officials, would mainly inspect slaughterhouses, meat processing factories and packing procedures to better control the safety of U.S.

beef that will be exported to Taiwan, the premier said.

Wu said he believes the U.S. will understand that Taiwan's legislature does not always accept all of the decisions made by the executive branch without expressing any opinions.

But professor Chen I-hsin of Tamkang University's Institute of American Studies said Friday that regardless of the delegation's intentions, Washington, which said it was "deeply concerned and disappointed" by the legislation, would not be moved.

Reneging on the protocol could trigger a spate of retaliatory moves by Washington, Chen suggested, including stalling visa-free treatment for Taiwanese tourists visiting the U.S., shelving arms sales, and cutting U.S. support for Taiwan's participation in major international organizations.

He contended that an existing inspection regime known as the "three controls" and "five certifications, " is effective enough in keeping potentially hazardous beef parts from the U. S. out of the country, making the potentially harmful legislative amendment redundant.

"Taiwan would have its credibility compromised by voting into law an amendment that would reverse the protocol," he warned.

Veteran diplomat Eugene Yi-cheng Lok also advised against passing the legal revision, because Taiwan will be accused of arbitrarily abrogating agreements.

"Except for stopping the passage of the amendment, nothing will help change the situation, not even sending a delegation to the U.S.," Lok asserted.

(By Chen Ching-fang, Chiachen Hsieh and Deborah Kuo) ENDITEM/ls

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