Taiwan’s Opposition Party Pushes for Referendum on US Pork Ban

The Kuomintang wants to overturn a government decision to allow imports of U.S. meat containing traces of a controversial feed additive.


By Nick Aspinwall, The Diplomat (D.C.)

January 09, 2021


Taiwan’s main opposition party is pushing ahead with efforts to initiate a referendum that could reverse the government’s decision to lift a pork import ban, which had been seen as the main obstacle to a free trade agreement with the United States.


Taiwan began allowing pork imports containing ractopamine, a controversial feed additive banned in much of the world but used in the U.S., on January 1, months after President Tsai Ing-wen announced her government’s intention to remove an existing import ban.


The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) said Tuesday it had begun collecting signatures for the second stage of a public referendum that aims to reverse Tsai’s decision.


The KMT passed the first stage of the referendum process, but that’s not a difficult threshold to meet: The party was required to collect the signatures of 0.01 percent of eligible voters in Taiwan’s last presidential election, or 1,931 people. It reached that goal last month.


It must now collect the signatures of 1.5 percent of eligible voters – around 290,000 people – for a referendum to take place.


If successful, the public will vote on a referendum question, which, according to the KMT, would ask: “Do you agree to a total ban on the importation of pork and related products containing leanness-enhancing additives (ractopamine and other beta-agonists)?”


Under Taiwan’s referendum laws, at least 25 percent of all eligible voters – around 5 million people – must vote in favor for the measure to pass. The number of yes votes must also outnumber the number of no votes.


Tsai said in August her government would allow imports of pork and beef containing safe levels of ractopamine starting on January 1, removing what had been the primary hurdle to negotiations on a free trade pact between Taipei and Washington. The move was a domestic political risk and faced immediate backlash from the KMT, along with pig farmers.


Health experts have been split on the issue...


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