December 5, 2023

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Taiwan Voters Back Ruling Party in Referendum, Removing Obstacle to U.S. Trade Deal

TAIPEI—Taiwan’s ruling get together claimed a decisive victory in a closely viewed referendum vote, in a setback for Beijing that eliminates a crucial obstacle to a U.S. trade offer with the democratically ruled island.

Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Occasion, which supports closer ties with Washington at the price of Beijing, prevailed on all 4 concerns place to voters on Saturday. Perhaps most notably, Taiwan voters turned down a proposal that would have banned imports of pork made up of trace quantities of the additive ractopamine—a crucial obstacle to a absolutely free-trade settlement with the U.S.

The result of the referendum was a surprise setback to Beijing and Taiwan’s opposition Nationalist Occasion, or Kuomintang, which seeks closer ties with China. Beijing claims democratically ruled Taiwan as part of its territory.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, speaking Saturday night just after the referendum result, hailed the vote as a victory for democracy and the folks of Taiwan. “The folks of Taiwan hope to stroll in direction of the globe and are eager to actively participate in worldwide affairs,” she mentioned at a information conference.

In addition to the vote on pork imports, Ms. Tsai’s ruling DPP also prevailed on 3 other concerns: a single that dealt with the destiny of a suspended nuclear plant, one more that requested voters to determine on whether or not to relocate a liquefied normal fuel terminal in buy to guard an algal reef, and a fourth concern that, if accepted, would have mandated that referendums be held in conjunction with normal elections.

Even with the victory for Ms. Tsai, turnout was somewhat very low, at just in excess of 41% of eligible voters.

For the Biden administration, which has pursued closer ties with Taiwan, and for Ms. Tsai, the vote on the pork imports averted an result that would have significantly complex relations with Washington, mentioned

Bonnie Glaser,

the Washington-based mostly director of the Asia Software at the German Marshall Fund.

“There was a significant degree of issue in the Tsai administration that this pork referendum would pass,” Ms. Glaser mentioned. If the pork import ban experienced been accepted by Taiwan’s voters, “it just would have been incredibly consequential for the U.S.-Taiwan trade romance,” she mentioned.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen hailed Saturday’s vote as a victory for democracy and the folks of Taiwan.


daniel ceng/Agence France-Presse/Getty Photos

Food items security has customarily ranked significant on the checklist of priorities for Taiwan voters. Opposition to the import of pork made up of ractopamine experienced by now sparked many avenue protests, as very well as fistfights and the slinging of pig intestines in Taiwan’s legislature.

Sung Wen-ti, who teaches Taiwan experiments at Australian National University, mentioned that the result on pork imports would most likely pace together a trade offer involving Washington and Taipei. “D.C. would presumably be a good deal far more eager to pursue advancements with trade talks involving the U.S. and Taiwan,” Mr. Sung mentioned.

Though the scope of the referendum was, in concept, confined to the concerns at hand, both of those the ruling get together and the opposition Nationalist Occasion framed the vote as a gauge of self-confidence in Ms. Tsai’s government. In that regard, the result is most likely to bolster Ms. Tsai’s hand with a very little far more than two yrs remaining in her second time period. She is barred from operating once more in 2024.

“This referendum—and potential kinds like it—point to the craze of how overt partisanship in Taiwan has pushed events to prioritize scoring political details,” mentioned Jessica Drun, a nonresident fellow and Taiwan qualified at the Atlantic Council.

Eric Chu, chairman of the Nationalist Occasion, blamed the very low turnout on chilly weather conditions and the actuality that the referendum was becoming held independent from the normal election cycle.

The referendum concentrated on energy, pork imports and election procedures.


ritchie b tongo/Shutterstock

Observers mentioned the election results marked a blow to Mr. Chu’s opposition get together, which has seen its assistance erode in latest yrs in Taiwan.

Chen Fang-yu, an assistant professor in political science at Taiwan’s Soochow University, characterized the referendum consequence as far more “a failure of the KMT alternatively of a accomplishment of the DPP.”

Apart from the pork import concern, the choice on the LNG plant was closely viewed as a signal of Taiwan’s energy coverage. Nuclear electrical power is frequently unpopular in Taiwan, supplied its spot on the earthquake-inclined Ring of Hearth.

Ms. Tsai experienced explained the LNG plant as very important to Taiwan’s initiatives to transition absent from coal and nuclear electrical power, even though environmental teams experienced objected to the challenge, citing the impression on the algal reef.

The island’s energy concerns jumped into the highlight in the summer months, as Taiwan endured main blackouts, boosting concerns in excess of the island’s energy requirements at a time when Taiwan is taking part in an increasingly very important part in the global semiconductor market and supply chains far more broadly.

Taiwan is property to what is extensively regarded as the world’s most crucial chip maker,

Taiwan Semiconductor Producing Co.

, which consumes approximately 5% of the island’s electrical power.

Create to Joyu Wang at [email protected]

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