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Whether or not Taiwan removes its ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures may be a key factor in its bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, which is effectively led by Tokyo.

“If there is a request from the Japanese side during the negotiations, it’s legitimate for us to respond appropriately,” a senior Taiwanese government official said, showing eagerness to accelerate talks with Japan by paving the way for lifting the self-ruled island’s import restrictions. The restrictions have remained in place since the 2011 meltdown at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Taiwan, after years of preparation, formally applied to join the 11-member TPP earlier this week.

On Thursday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said on Twitter in Japanese: “We’re ready to accept all rules. We hope our Japanese friends will support our efforts.”

Since the start of the Tsai administration in 2016, Taipei has been trying to remove the ban on food imports from Fukushima and four other prefectures. But there is lingering prejudice in Taiwan against food from the prefectures and the issue has remained a sticking point in Taiwan-Japan ties.

The tide may be changing, however, as the United States and the European Union recently decided to remove or ease their import restrictions on agricultural, forestry and fisheries goods from areas affected by the nuclear disaster.

“We want to use the method adopted by the United States as a reference,” another senior official of the Taiwanese government said, suggesting that Taiwan will aim to resume imports under the principles of ensuring people’s health while respecting scientific evidence and observing international rules.

China, which applied to join the TPP ahead of Taiwan, also maintains its ban on food imports from some prefectures. As Taiwan is desperate to be admitted to the TPP framework before China, it may be pressed to make it a top priority to resolve the import ban issue, observers said.

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