Candidates lock horns on pork, wages

By Yuan-Ming Chiao ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Presidential candidates sparred with each other in the second and final televised public debate on Saturday, with Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen trading most of their barbs on trade and wage issues, while James Soong of the People First Party (PFP) urged voters to choose him as an alternative to the island’s protracted partisan squabbles.

The second round of debates, hosted by Sanlih Entertainment Television, began with Chu devoting much of his eight minutes of opening remarks to attacking Tsai on cross-strait relations, diplomacy, the professionalization of the R.O.C. Armed Forces, participation in regional economic pacts and the island’s energy policy.

After Soong’s opening remarks, Tsai returned the salvo toward Chu, implying that his “distant from the people” leadership style was reminiscent of President Ma Ying-jeou’s. In her opener, she also spoke about her pursuit of “generational justice,” government efficiency and pension reform.

Pork Policies: Vague to Outlandish While the three candidates found common ground on judicial reform, the role of the central bank and upgrading digital infrastructure nationwide, jousting between Tsai and Chu overshadowed the two-and-a-half hour event.

The centerpiece of the at-times heated debate related to the prospect of opening the island’s economy to U.S. pork produced with ractopamine during the cross-examination round, with Chu accusing Tsai of flip-flopping on her party’s policy that has favored an import ban on such products. He also implied that a closed-door meeting at the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) during her U.S. visit in June last year was the reason behind her shift.

Vowing she would protect local pig farmers, Tsai responded by stating that pork was not up for discussion when she met with USTR officials and that her party had moved toward support the easing of import restrictions after the establishment of an international standard on ractopamine (Codex standard). She also added that it was too early to consider pork imports as they relate to Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. Soong suggested that the ractopamine-laced pork from the U.S. should be processed and sold back to Americans as jerky.

Tsai Mocks Chu as Nobel Prize Candidate In questions directed mainly at Chu, Tsai again raised the issue of the KMT’s “ill-gotten” party assets and whether a recent year-end banquet thrown by the party in Hsinchu was a case of vote-buying. Chu replied that Tsai was presuming guilt before presenting evidence regarding the banquet. He added that Tsai’s past perspectives of the KMT were coloring her perception of the party’s transformation in the past 20 years. Meanwhile, Tsai poured cold water on Chu’s recent proposal to raise minimum monthly wages to NT$30,000 within four years. Accusing Chu of a haphazard formulation of policy based on election considerations, she said if the problem of economic growth could be solved “merely by increasing wages” Chu should be considered for the Nobel Prize in economics. The KMT leader countered, adding that Nobel laureates had in the past urged U.S. President Obama’s administration to raise wages to bolster the U.S. economy. While the elder Soong was largely sidelined, he attempted to brandish his public image as the antidote to the island’s political infighting, at one point positively reminding both parties of their “non-tangible assets” while urging them to “stop bickering.” He added that he had the required abilities, experience and negotiation skills without the “baggage” of the KMT and DPP. “The only thing I am lacking is the right to govern,” he surmised near the end of the debate.