TAIPEI – The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry is urging Taiwan to ease its ban on food imports from five prefectures imposed as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In its annual white paper released Friday, the Taipei branch of the business group expressed hope that Taiwan will work to join regional economic cooperation agreements and sign a free trade deal with Japan.
“To create an environment conducive to regional participation in economic liberalization, Taiwan must amend regulations that are applied only here and run counter to international practices,” it said.
The chairman of the JCCI’s Taipei branch, Takeshi Yagi, cited two examples: The high tariffs imposed on Japanese rice wines and the ban on food imports from Fukushima and surrounding areas in place since 2011.
Last November, Taiwan was considering easing the import ban 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 items 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 products. And the government backed away from the plan following revelations that banned food products had nevertheless slipped into the country and been sold.
While the JCCI hopes to see the ban lifted fully, Yagi said it would be happy to see it eased in a phased manner.
On regional economic integration, Yagi said the JCCI is not in a position to comment on how Taiwan’s strained relations with China might impact its bid to join regional trading blocs such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
But the JCCI did urge Taiwan to map out more concrete plans concerning its “New Southbound Policy,” which calls for bolstering relations with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Australia, New Zealand and nations in South Asia.
Regarding purely domestic issues, the JCCI urged Taiwan to amend labor laws, cut red tape and ease rules for foreign investors.
The JCCI began releasing an annual white paper on business issues pertaining to Taiwan in 2009. The report assesses Taiwan’s business climate and summarizes recommendations to the Taiwan government on public policies, legislation and measures that impact Japanese companies’ operations in Taiwan.
Despite the absence of official diplomatic ties, which were severed in 1972, the unofficial relationship between Taiwan and Japan has remained robust. Japan is Taiwan’s third-largest trading partner after China including Hong Kong, while Taiwan is Japan’s fourth-largest trading partner.