Tsai makes a big, risky bid for a trade deal with the US–Taiwan Report News Brief transcript

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Summary: Holger Chen has been shot. The NPP gets a new chair. The charges have been dropped on the author who claimed Ko P trafficked organs. The Constitutional Court rules that the KMT’s ill-gotten assets are indeed ill-gotten. A proposal to replace the “92 consensus” with an “ECFA consensus” surfaces. President Tsai makes a big bid for a trade deal with the US. But up first, headlines.

Headlines

This summer has been the hottest ever recorded in Taiwan, with several monitoring stations having reported record temperatures, according to the Central Weather Bureau (CWB).
This summer arrived earlier and has been warmer than past summers, with the average temperature from June to Wednesday reaching a record 29.54°C.
My electric bills have also hit a new high.

The results of an antibody study in Changhua County, conducted by the county and National Taiwan University (NTU) public health researchers, showed the success of the Central Epidemic Command Center’s (CECC) disease prevention efforts.
Of the 4,841 high-risk people whose blood samples were analyzed, only four were confirmed positive, a rate of 8.3 positive people per 10,000.

The government’s business climate monitor last month showed “yellow-blue” for the fifth straight month, with the domestic economy stalled amid the pandemic, although it is starting to show signs of improvement, according to the National Development Council (NDC).

Consumer confidence edged up this month as people showed a little more optimism over the economy and purchases of durable goods, although they were gloomy over jobs and stock investment, a National Central University survey showed.

Taiwan has been listed as the third best destination for global investment by the latest U.S. Business Environment Risk Intelligence (BERI) report, retaining its top spot in Asia.
The only countries ahead of Taiwan in the rankings were Switzerland and Norway.

MediaTek Inc., Taiwan’s biggest IC design house, has applied for a permit from the U.S. government to sell chips to China’s Huawei Technologies Inc. after Washington tightened sanctions against the Chinese tech giant last week.
Huawei is one of their biggest customers.

A drive to impeach Kaohsiung City Councillor Chen Chih-chung (Chen Shui-bian’s son) of the DPP has passed phase one, and is now moving to phase two.
This is one of the revenge recall campaigns launched by supporters of ousted Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu.

In the wake of Kaohsiung City Councillor Huang Jie leaving the NPP after discovering her sister’s name on a list of voters in an internal election, in spite of her sister not having been informed she was approved as a member, the NPP is now accusing Huang Jie’s sister of having an “unusual” party application, claiming 11 people used the same credit card to pay fees via the Yunlin party branch.
When asked if she might join another party, she responded “we’ll see”.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) expressed her good wishes for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who resigned citing health reasons.
Tsai said during a press briefing “we cherish his friendship with Taiwan and hope he will get well soon”.
Abe has been very active in supporting Taiwan-Japan relations, both in policy and in his sentiments toward the Taiwanese people, Tsai added.
She is correct, under Abe relations with Japan have noticeably improved.

Holger Chen has been shot

Internet celebrity Holger Chen was shot three times in front of his gym in New Taipei City, inflicting wounds to his right arm, right thigh, and right ankle.
Impressively, he first lit a cigarette, then got someone to start live streaming for his huge audience immediately after the shooting, asking everyone to take care of his family and carry on his spirit.
His condition is stable after undergoing surgery.
A 23-year-old man surnamed Liu later turned himself in, who was said to have sexually harassed Chen at his gym.
Chen is a massively muscled and tattooed gym owner, as well as a former marine and gangster.
In recent years he has become a blunt-spoken major Youtube livestreaming star, and has gained some political clout.
He sometimes comments on politics and sometimes interviews politicians.
He helped bring attention to then KMT candidate for Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu, though later Chen turned against him.
This latest incident will no doubt add to his mystique.

NPP gets a new chair

The New Power Party’s (NPP) decisionmaking committee yesterday elected former NPP secretary-general Kao Yu-ting (高鈺婷) as chairwoman.
Former committee members earlier this month jointly stepped down after former NPP chairman Hsu Yung-ming’s (徐永明) alleged involvement in a bribery scandal related to an ownership dispute over the Pacific Sogo Department Store chain was made public.
A former engineer at the Industrial Technology Research Institute, Kao represented the NPP in this year’s legislative election in Hsinchu City, but came in third, with 29 percent of the vote.
She is a mother of two and only became an active participant in Taiwan’s politics after the 2014 Sunflower Student Movement.
Kao yesterday in her first statement as chairwoman said it was regrettable that the party has lost members and support in the wake of the Sogo scandal, but it would continue to offer solutions to the nation’s problems.
“The NPP is a party that is not afraid to reflect on itself and engage in reforms,” adding that it would work toward reinventing itself in the next six months.
She’s got her work cut out for her, that’s for sure.
I don’t know for sure if there is any significance to this or not, but yesterday, only a few days after leaving the NPP, Kaohsiung city councilor Huang Jie and former NPP legislator Freddy Lim both posted up pics of them hanging out together at a gym.
The timing is curious, that’s for sure.
There are enough NPP defectors turned independents to form a party of their own.
Will they?
Good question!

Charges dropped on author who claimed Ko trafficked organs

The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday dropped charges against US author Ethan Gutmann and Taiwanese political pundit Brian Wu (吳祥輝) in a defamation case brought by Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) over Gutmann’s allegations that Ko had played a role in China’s forced organ harvesting program.
Taipei prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence against Wu and Gutmann, author of the book The Slaughter, published in 2014 and billed as an expose of the “mass killings, organ harvesting and China’s secret solution to its dissident problem.”
Expressing displeasure with the announcement, Ko said he would talk to his lawyers before deciding on what action to take.
Wu arranged for Gutmann’s visit to Taiwan in October 2018 to talk about his book, which suggested that Ko had helped Chinese medical authorities on techniques and equipment for harvesting organs from Falun Gong members, political dissidents and inmates.
There isn’t any proof that Ko was involved in any organ trafficking, and Gutmann himself has changed his tune on this, previously having said Ko wasn’t involved.

Court rules that the KMT’s ill-gotten assets are indeed ill-gotten

Taiwan’s Constitutional Court declared on Friday that the provisions of the Act Governing the Settlement of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations are constitutional.
The court accepted a request for a constitutional interpretation from seven judges with the Taipei High Administrative Court in May, after the KMT brought a case questioning the legality of the law in 2016.
The judges had expressed concern that decisions made by the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee based on the act to confiscate all the assets of the KMT.
The assets were indeed ill-gotten, having seized them from the outgoing Japanese colonial government, or by fiat or purchased cheaply backed by the one party state they controlled.
It has created a crisis for the KMT, however.
They had previously used the party coffers to reward loyal supporters with plum party positions.
Even though they have shed a lot of these pointless employees, they have massive pension liabilities still on the books.

A proposal to replace the 92 consensus with ECFA consensus surfaces

A proposal in the KMT is gathering signatures to replace the “92 consensus” with “ECFA consensus”.
ECFA is the trade agreement signed with China during the Ma administration.
KMT representatives said the “ECFA consensus” is the party’s best strategy if it wishes to compete in the 2022 nine-in-one local elections and the 2024 presidential and legislative elections.
“It would define cross-strait relations as mutually beneficial economic relations,” the party representatives said.
There is no word on what Johnny Chiang thinks of the proposal.
There have been some comments in Chinese Communist mouthpieces suggesting China may exercise their option pull out of ECFA later this year, but others have suggested they won’t.
You have to give these party members credit for creativity, but frankly the chances that the Chinese side would agree to it are almost zero because it doesn’t include “one China” in the formulation.

Tsai makes big bid for a trade deal with the US

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced Friday that Taiwan will set standards for a controversial feed additive in imported pork and ease restrictions on American beef in an apparent attempt to pave the way to broker a trade deal with the United States.
Tsai said at a press conference that Taiwan will set standards for ractopamine residue in imported pork despite her Democratic Progressive Party’s long insistence on a zero tolerance policy toward the leanness-promoting additive.
She said she has instructed government agencies to set a “safety tolerance” level for ractopamine residue in imported pork based on scientific evidence and international standards, on the precondition that the public’s health is protected.
This is big news.
The president is going to have to use a lot of political capital to ride this out–without any guarantee she’ll succeed at getting a trade deal.
This removes the main obstacle to a trade deal, as the US has believed that it was simply protectionism, in spite of other major markets like the EU banning ractopamine.
Her announcement led to a flood of positive comments from the US side.
In a Twitter post, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said the decision “opens the door for further economic cooperation and a stronger trade partnership” with Taiwan, while crediting President Donald Trump for “delivering” on his promise to U.S. farmers.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said something very similar, and others praising the move include the U.S. National Security Council, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue as well as many in Congress.
The State Department and the NSC have been pushing for a trade agreement for some time.
Notable, however, is who has been silent so far: US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Up to now, he has been resisting pressure for a trade deal by citing the ractopamine issue.
Now that problem has been removed, but still no word from him yet.
There are concerns he may continue to obstruct movement on this.
Perhaps due to President Trump not showing much enthusiasm for free trade deals, or perhaps because he views it as a distraction while they are trying to hash out a trade deal with China.
As a related aside here, at a presentation with an Australian think tank, the president also pitched them on increasing trade ties.
On the domestic side the Council of Agriculture chief unveiled six measures that he said would guarantee income stability and increase the competitiveness of Taiwan’s pork producers.
The measures included pricing safeguards, incentives for restaurants and public enterprises to use domestic pork, subsidies for facility upgrades and funding for an industry development plan.
Predictably, the KMT has come out in opposition, citing the government’s lack of communication, failure to release risk assessments and the policy’s impact on local farmers.
The irony here is that it was supported by the KMT during the Ma administration, but it was opposition from the DPP and civic groups that effectively stopped Ma from moving forward.
That sort of policy swapping between ruling and opposition parties in Taiwan, however, is actually pretty common.
A slew of local governments, including Taipei and Taichung, said they would enforce local laws to block imported US pork.
Others said they wouldn’t use it in schools and in government-run facilities.

Image courtesy of President Tsai’s Facebook page

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