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Taiwan Votes to Maintain Import Ban on Fukushima Food Imports

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December 3, 2018
While Fukushima suffered a blow, trade ties between Japan and Taiwan avoided any major impact.
On Friday, Japan and Taiwan signed off on five bilateral trade pacts just days after Taiwan voted in a referendum to uphold an import ban on agricultural products from areas surrounding the Fukushima nuclear fallout.
Last week, 7.8 million voters in Taiwan approved renewing a legally binding food ban that was originally imposed after the nuclear disaster in 2011. The ongoing agricultural ban covers five Japanese prefectures including Fukushima and nearby Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Chiba over an extended two year period. Although the setback was expected to put a strain on bilateral relations, outright animosity has been diverted for now.
While there was no hiding the tension during two days of annual trade talks in Taipei, negotiations remained on cordial terms. In the absence of formal diplomatic representatives, leaders of the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association and Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association reached one agreement to speed up customs clearance on trade goods and four memorandums of understanding dealing with exchanges of patent information, business partnerships, medical equipment trade, and joint research.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono described the referendum results as “extremely disappointing” based on government efforts to provide food safety information and its continuous requests to lift the ban. Critics pointed out that the issue of Fukushima food safety was addressed on the referendum without any scientific backing. Kono said he was planning to retaliate by taking into consideration all available options as a future response. One tactic included advancing the World Trade Organization dispute settlement route and pushing efforts to persuade public opinion in Taiwan based on scientific data.
Although Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has called for closer exchanges between the two countries, she also stressed the need to respect the referendum as the embodiment of public opinion. Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Andrew Lee also responded saying they will handle the issue “carefully” and seek understanding from the Japanese side.
Taiwan has also been seeking to sign a full free trade agreement with Japan, the island’s third largest trading partner, but momentum to accelerate negotiations has stalled since the referendum. Taiwan’s lack of support in dispelling misinformation based on scientific inspection fueled criticisms in Japan that the food ban referendum was politically motivated by anti-Japanese feelings.
However, Taiwan isn’t the only government to regulate Fukushima imports behind the backdrop of radiation concerns. China, South Korea, Singapore, and Macau are among the neighbors imposing partial seafood and farm produce restrictions to varying degrees. Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori acknowledged how rumors and hearsay overseas were making it difficult to eliminate import embargoes, but said progress on the safety of prefectural products can be seen from the number of countries easing restrictions. The number of countries limiting imports from the area has dropped from an initial 54 to 25.
A major breakthrough signaling regional attitudes are loosening up came with China’s announcement that they will begin to relax import restrictions on rice from Japan’s west coast Niigata prefecture. China suspended imports of all animal feed, agriculture and fisheries products after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. But after scientific evaluation, described as examining wind direction and distance from the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor, Chinese President Xi Jinping cancelled import restrictions on the condition that white and brown rice are processed at milling factories registered with the Chinese Customs Authority.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to persuade Xi to lift restrictions at the bilateral summit in October have paid off, symbolizing a warming of political ties.
Niigata is one of Japan’s flagship regions for rice production and there is growing demand for the staple food in China, which consumes 20 times more rice than Japan and amounts to 30 percent of the world market. Seven years after the ban was first imposed, its abolition unlocks the potential to expand exports within a market of wealthy consumers eager for high end Japanese rice.
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December 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | 2 Comments

Taiwan to hold referendum on lifting Fukushima food ban in November

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Senior officials of the Kuomintang, Taiwan’s largest opposition party, hold a press conference on Aug. 27, 2018 at their headquarters in Taipei to state their opposition to lifting a ban on food imports from Fukushima and four other Japanese prefectures. The banners read “oppose nuclear food.”
 
August 28, 2018
TAIPEI — Taiwan’s largest opposition party Kuomintang has announced that it has collected some 470,000 signatures supporting a referendum on whether to lift a ban on the import of food products from five Japanese prefectures, including Fukushima, imposed after the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster.
The number is far more than the 280,000 legally required to hold a referendum, and it is most likely that one will be held on Nov. 24 in tandem with general local elections.
Taiwan has banned foodstuff from the prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba and Gunma in the northern and eastern parts of Japan, and the Kuomintang supports the ban.
A national referendum must have a turnout rate of at least 25 percent for the result to be valid, but this hurdle is likely to be cleared if the voting is done alongside the local elections. If voters back the ban, it would be extremely difficult for the administration of Tsai Ing-wen to ignore the outcome and Japan-Taiwan relations would suffer substantially as a result.
Behind the referendum move is a political rivalry between the Kuomintang and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headed by Tsai. The opposition is stepping up attacks on the ruling party in a bid to win the local elections and build political momentum toward the 2020 presidential election.
The Kuomintang has launched a negative PR campaign against food items from Fukushima and the other prefectures because the Tsai administration is positive about lifting the import ban. The opposition called the Japanese products “nuclear food,” meaning contaminated by the nuclear accident, and accused the government of ignoring people’s food safety concerns. A person linked to the DPP lamented that the issue is “being used in a political fight.”
The government of Japan has repeatedly urged Taiwan to lift the import ban, saying the safety of its food items is scientifically proven. However, the Tsai administration is hesitant about rushing a decision on resuming imports as it faces faltering approval rates and the issue could trigger explosive opposition from some voters.

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August 28, 2018 Posted by | Taiwan | , , | Leave a comment

KMT vows to challenge Japan food imports with referendum

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Taipei, April 6 (CNA) Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said on Thursday he will officially submit a proposal for the holding of a national referendum on food safety if the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration lifts a ban on the import of food products from radiation-affected prefectures in Japan.

The proposal has obtained more than 120,000 signatures, Hau said.

In addition, if the DPP government opens Taiwan’s market to ractopamine-containing pork from the United States, the KMT will mobilize the public to protest at customs offices, he said.

Under the Referendum Act, the authorization of a referendum requires that no less than 0.5 percent of the total electorate at the last presidential election sign a petition.

Because there were 18.78 million eligible voters at the last election on Jan. 16, 2016, Hau’s proposal needs to be supported by at least 93,900 signatures and then approved by the Referendum Review Committee.

Taiwan has banned imports of food products from five prefectures in Japan – Fukushima, Gunma, Chiba, Ibaraki and Tochigi – that were contaminated by radiation following the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011, a catastrophe triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

Taiwan’s government is now considering lifting the ban on food from all the prefectures except Fukushima, but has run into virulent public opposition.
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April 8, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | 1 Comment

Former town mayor recalls town referendum that booted plans for nuclear plant

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NIIGATA – Residents of the town of Maki, Niigata Prefecture, made the right decision 20 years ago, according to Takaaki Sasaguchi.

The town was Japan’s first ever to hold a referendum over a plan to build a nuclear power plant and firmly knocked it down.

I’m proud that we opened our future through the referendum,” the former town mayor, 68, said in an interview. “Our choice not to allow a nuclear plant to be built in our town was not wrong.”

Maki no longer exists as a discrete entity as it has since been absorbed into the city of Niigata.

But memories run strong of what people power achieved, and in light of the Fukushima disaster what it may have prevented.

In 1971, Tohoku Electric Power Co. unveiled plans to construct a nuclear plant in the town. The facility was to generate electricity from a central 825,000-kw reactor of boiling-water design.

But as land appropriation and other work got underway, opposition strengthened.

Sasaguchi and his colleagues set up a group aimed at holding a referendum so that residents could decide for themselves.

He was elected mayor in January 1996, and the Maki government then established a municipal ordinance for a referendum.

Referendum day was Aug. 4 that year, and 12,478 residents voted against the plan. Those in favor totaled 7,904.

Voter turnout was 88.29 percent in Japan’s first local referendum over a nuclear power station.

Following the result, Mayor Sasaguchi decided to reject the nuclear plant construction, and a plot of land that the town owned within the proposed site was sold off to residents who had opposed the plans.

Those in favor of the plant sued, but in December 2003 they lost the case and later that month Tohoku Electric threw in the towel.

Sasaguchi accuses Japan’s government of not encouraging respect for local voices back then.

A pro-nuclear push made it difficult for Maki residents to speak up.

The most important thing in the referendum was that residents showed their intentions and made a choice,” Sasaguchi recalls.

The referendum result drew heavy media coverage, and the town was praised for choosing the democratic process.

Sasaguchi says it also brought the town together.

I think Maki residents probably wanted to bring their town, which had been upset by the nuclear project, back to being a normal community,” he said.

The town was merged into the city of Niigata in 2005, and the referendum began to be forgotten.

However, the March 2011 nuclear crisis in neighboring Fukushima Prefecture reminded ex-Maki residents of the significance of their vote back in 2006.

They told Sasaguchi the same tragedy could have happened to them if they had allowed a nuclear plant to be built.

Meanwhile, Sasaguchi notes that Tokyo Electric Power Co. has filed for Nuclear Regulation Authority safety checks for two of the seven reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station in Niigata Prefecture.

Even if the NRA endorses the safety, the issue of the nuclear waste disposal site remains unresolved,” he said.

The central government still has not identified a long-term disposal site for high-level waste.

The Japanese government should put into force a policy that doesn’t depend on nuclear power plants as soon as possible,” he said.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/08/18/national/former-town-mayor-recalls-town-referendum-booted-plans-nuclear-plant/

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August 20, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment