TAIPEI – Taiwan is set to lower its tariffs on sake from Japan to 20 percent, from the current 40 percent, as early as August.
Taiwan will also cut its tariffs on such Japanese farm and fishery products as frozen shishamo smelt, scallop and yams, and processed foods including miso paste and curry roux.
It hopes to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral free trade pact, which took effect late last year.
By lowering its tariffs on products from Japan, a core TPP member, Taiwan aims to highlight its commitment to free trade, sources familiar with the situation said.
Taiwan’s parliament on Wednesday passed legislation to lower the tariffs.
Sake is popular in Taiwan, with imports of the rice wine from Japan in 2018 surging 46.7 percent from the previous year to $12.61 million. The number of Japanese restaurants and izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) is increasing in Taiwan.
Sake imports are expected to grow further following the tariff cuts.
Taiwan plans to keep intact at least until November 2020 its import ban on foods from five Japanese prefectures, introduced following the March 2011 triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station.
At a time when frustration at the import bans is increasing in Japan, Taiwan is apparently sending a sign of goodwill to the Japanese side with the tariff cuts, experts said.
Still, Taiwan plans to maintain its 40 percent tariffs on Japanese spirits with high alcohol content, such as shōchū and awamori, apparently in order to protect locally made high-proof alcoholic drinks, although the Japanese side is seeking tariff reductions for these products as well.