1223: Referendum to Restrict U.S. Pork Fails, Taiwan’s Video Feed Cut at U.S. Summit, Protests Against NFL’s Kowtowing to China

Taiwan’s Voters Reject Referendum to Restrict American Pork, Facilitating U.S.-Taiwan Trade Talks and FTA Negotiation

Taiwan’s referendum result last week that failed to overturn the Taiwan government’s decision to allow imports of American pork containing ractopamine will help Taiwan strengthen its ties and facilitate trade talks with the United States, moving one step closer to a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The referendum on reinstating a ban on imports of pork containing the feed additive ractopamine was one of four held on December 18. “No” votes slightly outnumbered “yes” votes on all four questions, and turnout would have been too low for the referendums to pass if the results were reversed. The referendum results are widely seen as a victory of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

On the pork question, 3,936,554 people (48.79 percent) voted for the ban, and 4,131,203 people (51.21 percent) voted against, with a turnout of only 41.09 percent. To pass, “yes” votes would have had to exceed 4,956,367 votes, representing at least 25 percent of all eligible voters, and outnumber “no” votes.

The U.S. has long pressured Taiwan to allow imports of American pork with Ractopamine. Taiwan’s longtime import ban, which was only lifted at the beginning of this year, was considered an impediment to trade by the U.S., and Washington had suspended trade talks under the bilateral Trade & Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) as long as the ban was in place.

Li Che-chuan, an associate research fellow at the “Institute for National Defense and Security Research” in Taiwan, said the failed pork referendum showed that the Taiwan government is reliable and that the result is expected to earn more trust from the United States. With deeper trust, high-ranking U.S.-Taiwan economic and strategic dialogues are expected to proceed, Li said.

Roy Chun Lee, a senior scholar at the “Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research” in Taiwan, said he expected the U.S. to continue the TIFA talks with Taiwan, which resumed in June. The U.S.-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue, which was held for the second time last month, and the newly established Technology Trade and Investment Collaboration framework between the two economies are also expected to continue, Lee said.

FAPA President Minze Chien stated: “This referendum result is a victory for the people of Taiwan. And it is a great relief for all of us who work hard on seeking to enhance and preserve the best U.S.-Taiwan relationship we have ever witnessed in history. We have said it before and we say it again: As China continues to increase its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan, a U.S.-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement is not just critical for Taiwan’s economic resilience but for Taiwan’s survival as an independent democratic country.”

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/business/202112190001
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2021/12/21/2003769953

U.S. Abruptly Cuts Taiwanese Minister’s Video Feed at Democracy Summit

On December 10, a video feed of Taiwan’s digital minister Audrey Tang was cut during U.S. President Joe Biden’s “Summit for Democracy” after a map in her slide presentation showed Taiwan in a different color to China’s, which caused consternation among U.S. officials, according to a news report.

The color-coded map used in Tang’s presentation is produced by South African non-governmental organization CIVICUS, ranking the world by openness on civil rights. In it, Taiwan was colored green, making it the only regional entity portrayed as “open,” while China, Laos, Vietnam and North Korea were depicted as red and labeled “closed.”

After Tang’s initial presentation with the map, when the moderator returned to Tang there was no video of her, just audio, and a screenshot captioned: “Minister Audrey Tang Taiwan.” An onscreen disclaimer later read: “Any opinions expressed by individuals on this panel are those of the individual, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States government.”

Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that Tang’s video feed was cut deliberately at the behest of the White House, which was concerned that differentiating Taiwan and China on a map in a U.S.-hosted conference could be seen as being at odds with Washington’s “One China Policy,” which avoids expressing a clear position on whether Taiwan is part of China.

Nevertheless, the State Department said “confusion” over screen-sharing resulted in Tang’s video feed being dropped, and called it “an honest mistake.” “We valued Minister Tang’s participation, which showcased Taiwan’s world-class expertise on issues of transparent governance, human rights, and countering disinformation,” a State Department spokesperson said.

One source reportedly told Reuters that the map generated an instant e-mail flurry among U.S. officials, and that the White House National Security Council (NSC) “angrily contacted” the State Department with concern that the map showed Taiwan as a distinct country. The NSC was also upset the map had not been presented in “dry-run” versions of the presentation ahead of the summit.

Another source told the outlet that the video booth operator cut Tang’s video on White House instructions, saying it was “clearly policy concerns” and adding that it was “completely an internal overreaction.”

However, an NSC spokesman said that Reuters’ account of the incident was “inaccurate.” “At no time did the White House direct that Minister Tang’s video feed be cut,” the spokesman wrote in an e-mail, also blaming it on confusion over screen-sharing, and adding that the full video of Tang’s remarks could be viewed on the summit Web page.

Meanwhile, Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin says sources tell him it was the State Department that made the decision to cut Tang’s video and that the department then tried to throw the White House under the bus. Rogin told Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade that it was not a senior official who made the call to drop the video, but someone in the technical booth who overreacted in the moment and then lied about it.

Nonetheless, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) also faulted “technical problems” for the video dropping out, citing the explanation it was given by the U.S. “Taiwan and the United States have fully communicated on this technical issue, and the two sides have a solid mutual trust and a solid and friendly relationship,” MOFA said.

[1] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/curious-case-map-disappearing-taiwan-minister-us-democracy-summit-2021-12-12/
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2021/12/14/2003769569
[3] National Review: https://www.nationalreview.com/news/white-house-cut-taiwanese-ministers-video-feed-at-democracy-summit-over-map-separating-taiwan-china/

FAPA-LA Protests Against NFL for Depicting Taiwan as Part of China

The Professional American football league National Football League (NFL) has labelled Taiwan as a part of China in its latest global marketing plan, igniting protests by a Taiwanese civil group in the United States on December 17.

The controversy erupted after the NFL announced a statement on December 15, which showed a color-coded world map that identified Taiwan as the same country as China, with both colored in red under the market of the Los Angeles Rams.

Ken Wu, deputy head of the FAPA’s Los Angeles chapter, protested against the NFL statement on December 17.

“The existence of the 23 million people in Taiwan cannot be ignored in this way. We ask the NFL to make corrections and apologize,” Wu told CNA. “The NFL should harden up and not kowtow to China.”

American football is one of the most complex sports in the world, and it is also a representative sport that Americans are most proud of, Wu said. Many Taiwanese immigrants and international students living in the U.S. also love to watch American football, Wu added, urging the NFL not to disappoint hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese fans.

Wu said he was happy to see American football expand overseas and welcomes the NFL to the Taiwan market so that more Taiwanese people will watch the annual championship game Super Bowl, but he has hopes of letting the league’s officials know that “Taiwan is not part of China.”

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/sports/202112180006