Taiwan voted on four referendums, including reimposing a ban on US pork in a contentious referendum that tested trade ties with Washington as the island seeks to expand its international presence.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had warned that a
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had warned that a "yes" vote on the pork ban would hurt Taiwan's trade ties with its key ally and jeopardise a bid to join a major trans-Pacific trade pact. (Reuters)

Taiwan's opposition has suffered a major setback after voters rejected four referendums it had championed as a show of no confidence in the government.

One of the most contentious referendums on Saturday asked whether to ban imports of pork containing the leanness-enhancing additive ractopamine on safety grounds.

Another contentious referendum asked whether to relocate a planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal to protect a reef.

Turnout on Saturday was low, but the government welcomed the referendums' defeat.

"Taiwan's people want to go out into the world, and are willing to actively participate in the international community," Tsai told reporters, referring to the pork vote.

Pork imports, LNG terminal

The government approved the pork imports last year, hoping to remove a stumbling block for a free trade deal with the United States, where ractopamine is widely used, and show it is a reliable trade partner.

The substance is banned in places including the European Union, China and Russia.

The referendum proposal failed to pass with more than 4.13 million people voting "no" against around 3. 94 million in favour. It required nearly 4.96 million "yes" votes to reimpose the pork ban.

As for the LNG terminal, the government said it will secure energy supplies for the semiconductor-producing island, hit by power cuts said in May.

Government officials have said the LNG terminal will be moved further offshore to minimise the impact on the reef, but Saturday's referendum sought a complete relocation.

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Pressure from Beijing

The defeat of the referendums comes as Taipei faces growing military and political pressure from Beijing, and is a boost for President Tsai Ing-wen re-elected by a landslide last year on vows to stand up to China.

China claims the democratically ruled island as its own territory.

Taiwan's main opposition party the Kuomintang, or KMT, which traditionally favours close ties with Beijing, is hoping to make a comeback in key mayoral elections late next year.

The other two issues being voted on were whether referendums should be allowed to be held in conjunction with general elections and whether Taiwan's fourth nuclear power plant in New Taipei should be unsealed for commercial operations. 

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies