Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Amending Laws and Abrogating Treaties is Blind Emotionalism

Amending Laws and Abrogating Treaties is Blind Emotionalism
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
January 6, 2010

It is pointless to say certain things in advance. Nobody listens. But afterwards, these things must be said. The US beef imports controversy has led to the amendment of a law and the abrogation of a treaty. But such blind emotionalism is not in the interest of the community and is inflicting further harm upon the nation.
The agreement signed by the Ma administration and Washington threw open the doors to beef imports. This political miscalculation provoked public anxiety and legislative opposition. For this, the Ma administration has only itself to blame. But once the storm passed, the legislature amended the law and abrogated the treaty. It was tantamount to rubbing salt into a wound, and can only increase the harm inflicted upon the nation.

After amending the law and abrogating the treaty, the ruling and opposition parties attempted to put a favorable spin on their actions. They declared that "the ruling and opposition parties must stand shoulder to shoulder with the executive branch to face down international pressure." In other words, the Blue and Green political parties would bear the consequences of their actions. In fact, their declaration was phony, bombastic, and hollow. It is phony because the whole point in the controversy is to prevent the importation of beef organ meats and ground beef. To do this one need only erect an array of bureaucratic hurdles. Why go to the extreme of amending the law and abrogating the treaty? Amending the law and abrogating the treaty may allow one to make domestic political hay. But when it comes to preventing the importation of beef organ meats and ground beef, it is gilding the lily. It is bombastic because there is no "international pressure" on the Legislative Yuan. What political consequences are there for the Legislative Yuan? None. The consequences of a breach of trust and breach of contract with Washington will be borne by the nation as a whole. They will be passed on to society as a whole. And yet the Legislative Yuan boasted that it would shoulder responsibility for the consequences of its breach of trust and breach of contract. Isn't that just a tad too bombastic? It is hollow because the amending of the law and the abrogation of the treaty has merely exposed the Democratic Progressive Party's real agenda -- to milk the issue in an effort to undermine President Ma. It also satisfies the KMT legislative caucus' desire to humiliate Chairman Ma. But in terms of crisis management for the entire nation, such a declaration amounts to rubbing salt in a wound. All it will do is undermine Taipei's image and credibility.

Is there really no way to prevent the importation of beef organ meats and ground beef besides amending the law and abrogating the treaty? Wouldn't erecting a series of bureaucratic hurdles do the trick. Do we really need to destroy our international credibility? Even assuming the treaty the Ma administration signed was defective, the Blue and Green political parties in the Legislative Yuan ought to be engaging in damage control. The Legislative Yuan has amended the law and abrogated the treaty. It has indulged in a bout of blind emotionalism. Is it safeguarding the nation, or is it harming the nation?

We must not underestimate the U.S. response. The American Institute in Taiwan said that the Legislative Yuan's unilateral abrogation of a bilateral agreement, signed in good faith by the United States, ignores Taipei's own risk assessment report. It said that the move would undermine Taipei's credibility among its trading partners. It said it would difficult for Washington and Taipei to reach any future agreements, or expand and strengthen bilateral economic relations. It said that the most disappointing aspect was that the United States has been one of Taipei's most important trading and investment partners. It strongly supported Taipei's participation in the global trading system. It supported Taipei's membership in WTO and participation in APEC. If we translate the AIT's comments into plain English, what it said was, "Does Taipei still want the United States as a friend? Is Taipei still a friend the United States can count on? Does Taipei still have a government qualified to sign international treaties?"

Were it not for blind emotionalism, it would be easy to interpret the United States' response and assess the harm inflicted upon the nation. The ruling and opposition parties have foolishly underestimated the significance of the United States' reaction. Some say "The United States may punish Taiwan. But everything will blow over in six months." Some say "At worst the TIFA will be affected." Some are even uttering such nonsense as, "The United States may injure my arm, but if it does, it will injure its finger." It is easy to spout such nonsense merely to justify ruling and opposition party "cooperation." Has the legislature made every effort to serve the nation, or has it merely rubbed salt in the nation's wounds, while making blindly emotionalistic political gestures? Was amending the law and abrogating the treaty the only option. Was it the best option? Or were there other, better ways to prevent the importation of beef organ meats?

In fact, "political permission" in conjunction with "administrative prohibition" is the most common method of dealing with such matters in international trade. This method would allow us to accomodate both political and diplomatic interests and administrative requirements. It is not necessary to sacrifice political or diplomatic interests for the sake of administrative requirements. We can have both substance and appearance. But our Legislative Yuan is the only one in the world that refuses to think this way. Instead, it insists on amending laws and abrogating treaties. It insists on destroying the nation's image, credibility, and international political and diplomatic interests. No one could restrain these irrational fools before they acted. Now that they have precipitated disaster, the least we can do is demand an accounting.

And lastly, we cannot absolve either President Ma or Chairman Ma of responsibility. On the one hand, he was wrong to underestimate the consequences of signing the treaty. On the other hand, once the storm broke, he was unable to dissuade the KMT legislative caucus from wallowing in blind emotionalism, and engaging in populist demagoguery. As such, he compounded his mistake.

2010.01.07 03:36 am









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