National

Japanese business group decries Taiwan’s continued ban on Japanese food imports in wake of 3/11

Kyodo

The Japanese business community in Taipei on Friday lamented over Taiwan’s continued ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures imposed in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

In its annual white paper, the Taipei branch of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the Japanese business community in Taipei is disappointed that the issue has been manipulated into a “political problem.”

“We are deeply disappointed and think it’s extremely dangerous that the (Taiwan) government continues the ban without any support of scientific evidence,” it said.

The local Japanese chamber, with 471 member companies, urged the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen to make a “cool-headed judgment based on conscience to avoid undermining sound Japan-Taiwan relations.”

It also called on the Taiwan government to re-examine the ban based on scientific evidence. As of August, the Taiwan government had conducted inspections on more than 125,000 units of food products imported from Japan since March 15, 2011, with none exceeding the legal limits for radiation, it pointed out.

Other countries and regions such as the United States, Hong Kong and Singapore have relaxed restrictions on food imports from Fukushima Prefecture and other affected areas, it added.

The World Trade Organization has ruled that Taiwan’s continued import ban on seafood from Fukushima and other parts of Japan as “arbitrarily and unjustifiably” discriminatory measures. China and Japan are also in talks about easing the ban, it said.

The Tsai government proposed easing the ban after coming to power in May 2016, only to back away when the main opposition Kuomintang questioned the new government’s ability to ensure the safety of the imported products.

Kuomintang has initiated a referendum seeking to maintain the ban. The initiative, along with nine others on other issues, will be put to a vote in conjunction with the nationwide local elections on Nov. 24.

National Development Council Minister Chen Mei-ling, who accepted the chamber’s policy proposal Friday, said the Taiwan government must complete all necessary safety assessments and communications with the public before it considers adjusting the policy.

“Then it’ll be just waiting for the right time to lift the ban,” she said.

Despite the absence of 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.

Bilateral trade totaled $62.7 billion last year, up about 4 percent from the previous year. Japanese investment in Taiwan last year also increased more than 84 percent from the previous year to $649 million.