Taipei, Nov. 24 (CNA) Rejecting certain American pork imports will isolate Taiwan from world trade, Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花) said Wednesday at a televised referendum forum, while a former Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker said that argument was nothing but political manipulation.
If an upcoming referendum passes to prohibit imports of American pork, offal and other related products that contain the livestock drug ractopamine, it would jeopardize Taiwan’s efforts to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), Wang said.
Prohibiting such imports would mean reneging on Taiwan’s promise to the United States on the issue, which in turn would undermine their bilateral relations and create a negative impression in the international arena, Wang argued.
If the referendum passes, “Taiwan will become an orphan in the international society, of our own volition,” she said. “Is that really what we want?”
On the other side of the issue, former KMT lawmaker Lin Li-chan (林麗蟬) urged the public to vote “yes” on the referendum question, saying that the Democratic Progress Party (DPP) government is using the pork import issue as a political tool to further its own interests.
“Which member state of the CPTPP is demanding that Taiwan open to pork imports?” said Lin, who heads the KMT’s women’s development department.
The DPP is again linking the pork import issue to Taiwan’s efforts to join global organizations, thus forcing the Taiwanese people to choose between their health and the country’s international status, she said.
“This is the usual political manipulation by the DPP, and it is a diplomatic hoax,” Lin said.
Wednesday’s televised forum also included debates on the other three questions that will be on the ballot in the Dec. 18 referendum, namely the future of nuclear power in Taiwan, the conservation of algal reefs, and whether referendums should be held concurrently with major elections.
The arguments over the balance between environmental protection and economic development took center stage again, with Tunghai University Professor Lin Hui-chen (林惠珍) calling for people to vote in favor of relocating a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal project in Taoyuan, while Thomas Chan (詹順貴), former deputy minister of the Environmental Protection Administration, put up an opposing argument.
Lin said that the current plan to move the LNG terminal further away from the shoreline is a hasty decision that does not address the destruction of the algae reefs along the coast.
The project would destroy the habitat of various marine species, raise the sea temperature, and end up disrupting the ecosystem, he said.
“How much do we need to sacrifice for more electricity?” Lin said.
In response, Chan said the current plan will minimize the impact on the algae reefs and is the best balance between environmental protection and economic development.
Environmental protection also means addressing air pollution problems and achieving zero carbon emissions, he said, adding that voting to stop the LNG project will impact the efforts to reduce coal usage.
In the debate on whether future referendums should be held concurrently with major elections, KMT city councilor Chung Pei-chun (鍾沛君) put up arguments in favor of the proposal, saying it is more cost-efficient, while DPP lawmaker Chuang Jui-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said it would divert from the essence of referendums, which should not be sidelined by general elections.
On the issue of Taiwan’s long-mothballed Fourth Nuclear Power plant, the two main speakers were Huang Shih-hsiu (黃士修), who initiated the campaign for a public vote to unseal the power plant, and Tsai Chung-yueh (蔡中岳), vice CEO of the organization Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan.