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Japan signs trade agreements with Taiwan despite ongoing dispute over nuclear food ban

Taiwan to seek understanding as Japan threatens to sue over food ban
November 29, 2018
Taipei, Nov. 29 (CNA) Taiwan will seek Japan’s understanding in a row over a ban on imports of agricultural and food products from radiation contaminated areas in Japan, the foreign ministry said Thursday, in response to a threat by Japan to take the case to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Earlier in the day, Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono told lawmakers in Tokyo that the government will not rule out the possibility of filing a complaint with the WTO over the ban, which has been in place since the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in March 2011.
Kono’s statement came after Taiwanese voted on Nov. 24 in favor of maintaining the ban, by margin of 78 percent to 22 percent in a referendum.
Commenting on Kono’s remarks, Andrew Lee (李憲章), spokesman for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), said the ministry will cautiously engage in talks with Japan over the referendum result to seek understanding and protect the bilateral relations.
The Taiwan government has to respect public opinion, as expressed in the referendum result, but it also has to make sure that its cordial relations with Japan are not affected, Lee said.
He said it is MOFA’s long held stance that any decision on the ban must be based on international standards, scientific evidence and the relevant WTO rules.
In addition, the health of the Taiwanese people must be taken into consideration, Lee said, adding that the final decision on the issue rests with Ministry of Health and Welfare.
In 2015, Japan filed a complaint with the WTO against South Korea over a similar ban and won the case on Feb. 22 this year.
The WTO said the ban was inconsistent with its rules against “arbitrarily or unjustifiably” discriminating against another country and recommended that South Korea take corrective action.
South Korea, however, has appealed the WTO ruling and has maintained the ban.
Taiwan’s ban on food products from radiation-contaminated areas of Japan, namely Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures, was imposed in 2011 by the then-Kuomintang government and tightened in 2015 after products from some of the listed Japanese prefectures were found on store shelves in Taiwan.
Since the Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2016, it has been considering lifting the ban on food imports from all the affected prefectures except Fukushima, but has run into strong public opposition to the idea. 
Japan signs trade agreements with Taiwan despite ongoing dispute over nuclear food ban
November 30, 2018
Japan signed five trade agreements with Taiwan on Friday, despite the ongoing ban on imports of Japanese food products that Taipei imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
It had been feared that the ban, which is to be upheld following last week’s national referendum, could upset trade ties between the two sides.
Yet Taiwan-Japan Relations Association President Chiou I-jen and his Japanese counterpart, Mitsuo Ohashi, chairman of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association – the closest thing the two have to ambassadors in the absence of diplomatic ties – still signed one agreement and four memorandums of understanding at the Ambassador Hotel in Taipei, signalling their mutual desire to overlook the issue for now.
The agreement pertains to the speeding up of customs clearance process for goods traded between Japan and Taiwan, while the four MOUs deal with a wide range of trade issues, including the exchange of patent information, business partnerships, trade in medical equipment and materials, joint research, and cooperation in promoting small and medium-sized enterprises.
All five were signed only six days after Taiwanese voters approved a referendum requiring the government to maintain a ban on food imports from Fukushima prefecture and nearby Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures. In campaigning ahead of last Saturday’s referendum and in the days since, much attention focused on whether its passage would drive a wedge between Japan and Taiwan, especially when they are otherwise working to cooperate more closely on security matters.
According to diplomatic insiders, Ohashi expressed regret over the referendum result when he visited Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Thursday.
Tsai reportedly described bilateral ties as “stable” and “close,” and said Taiwan hopes Tokyo will support its bid to participate in the second round of accession talks to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-nation free trade agreement in which Japan plays a leading role.
In the trade talks, Taiwanese negotiators raised that issue, Chang Shu-ling, secretary general of the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association, told a press conference after the signing ceremony. She also dismissed speculation that the food ban referendum would have any negative impact on bilateral relations, saying the trade agreements were a clear demonstration of close ties.
Japanese negotiators had asked Taiwan to ease the food ban on scientific grounds, while Taiwanese officials stressed the civic right of its people to affect policy through referendums.
On Thursday, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told the Diet that Tokyo did not rule out taking the matter to the World Trade Organisation, which has already ruled that South Korea’s import ban on seafood from Fukushima and other parts of Japan is “arbitrarily and unjustifiably” discriminatory. South Korea has appealed the ruling.
China, meanwhile, on Thursday lifted its ban on rice produced in Niigata Prefecture, but maintained restrictions on nine other prefectures.
Taiwan’s representative to Japan, Frank Hsieh, previously said that if China eased its restrictions before Taiwan, the latter would be “embarrassed” because it would become the only place to retain a comprehensive ban on Japanese food products from regions affected by the 2011 nuclear disaster.

December 7, 2018 - Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , ,

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