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Taiwanese food ban likely to have negative impact on CPTPP bid

  • January 25, 2018
  • , Kyodo News , 6:49 p.m.
  • English Press
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TAIPEI — Taiwan’s ban on the import of Japanese food products has the potential to cause a fairly negative impact on the island’s wish to join the Japan-led Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, authorities said on Thursday.


Fan Chen-kuo, deputy secretary general of the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association, told a weekly press conference that the position of the Taiwan government on the food issue has been consistent, which is to base its decision on scientific evidence under the regulations of the World Trade Organization.


“We hope the (food) issue can be resolved in a speedy and appropriate manner,” he said, adding that it should not be politicized and become a political issue or it will have a negative impact on the trade policy the government wishes to pursue, including joining the CPTPP, the largest trade-liberalizing pact in the Asia-Pacific.


Fan said whether the ban will be changed concerns two aspects. Domestically, the government must make efforts to make the public believe that the food is safe before restrictions are eased. Internationally, the government must take into account the practices of other countries.


The European Union has recently decided to partially lift its restrictions on imports of Japanese food imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. China has also proposed to Japan to set up a working group to discuss the issue.


Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to Japan Frank Hsieh recently said in Japan that if China eases its restrictions before Taiwan does, Taiwan will be “embarrassed” because it will be the only country or region keeping a comprehensive ban on the import of food products from Japanese prefectures affected by the 2011 disaster.


Japan, the leading power of the pact after the United States pulled out last year, has publicly welcomed various countries and areas, including Taiwan, to participate.


Fan said Japan is not using the food ban as leverage against Taiwan and that the Foreign Ministry hopes that it will not do so in the future either.


“However, there is always a possibility that the food issue has a negative impact on the trade issue such as CPTPP,” he said, pointing out the trade dispute between Japan and South Korea over a similar food ban.


The WTO ruled against South Korea last year in a case filed by Japan over Seoul’s ban on imports of seafood from an area near the Fukushima nuclear power plant.


In November 2016, the Taiwan government was considering easing the ban on such food imports in two stages.


In the first stage, while the ban on imports of all food products from Fukushima Prefecture would remain in place, the ban on certain food imports from nearby Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures would be lifted.


In the second stage, to be implemented possibly six months later, restrictions would be further relaxed.


But that plan faced strong opposition from the opposition Nationalist Party (KMT), which questioned the government’s ability to ensure the safety of the imported products. The government backed away from the plan following revelations that banned food products had nevertheless slipped into the country and been sold.

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