Sat, Sep 20, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Ministry says no Italian sanction exists

SELF-SABOTAGE?A facemask maker said that the nation had undermined its own competitiveness after reporting that a client had been warned about the product

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Minister of Health and Welfare Chiu Wen-ta, right, speaks as Premier Jiang Yi-huah listens in the legislature yesterday during a question-and-answer session about food safety and long-term healthcare.

Photo: Chen Chi-chu, Taipei Times

Italy has no specific restrictions on the import or the sale of Taiwanese products, Minister of Economic Affairs Woody Duh (杜紫軍) said yesterday, adding that a report about a Taiwanese face mask maker being told by his Italian customer that products made in Taiwan would no longer be accepted was probably a commercial — rather than official — decision made by an individual company.

Duh was responding to news generated by a Facebook post written by Lee Kuen-lin (李昆霖), general manager of a face mask manufacturer that sells its products in at least 17 countries.

Lee on Wednesday posted a screenshot of an e-mail sent by the company’s Italian client in which an English-language news link reporting on Taiwan’s tainted oil scandal was attached. The Italian importer said in the e-mail that its clients told them that Taiwan has “a big problem with the production of the cosmetics” and customers “do not want to buy [the products] if it report [sic] made in Taiwan.”

The Italian customer added that it was the “rule/decision of the market.”

“It might not be a big deal to lose one order, but it would be a serious problem on a national level if the European market refuses to purchase products made in Taiwan because of the tainted oil scandal,” Lee said.

He added that he would not blame his European client for lumping issues concerning food and cosmetics together.

Foreign companies would think that “if the Taiwanese government cannot properly regulate things that go into our stomach, which is quite important, [it raises questions whether it could do well on the supervision of] other products, such as cosmetics,” Lee said.

“It is ironic that when we were trying hard to open foreign markets, it was not our main competitor, South Korea, that beat us, but our own domestic teammates, and they are not even in the same business as we are,” Lee said.

Duh was questioned by the media over the matter after he arrived at the legislature for a floor meeting yesterday.

“The Italian government, according to our representative office [in Italy] does not have special restrictions on the sale of products imported from Taiwan. The said decision not to have any products made in Taiwan must be a commercial decision by individual Italian companies,” Duh said, adding that the ministry would pursue an explanation for the incident.

Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said it was a problem between the two companies and that the foreign ministry would help facilitate communication between the two sides.

When asked whether the reputation of products made in Taiwan would be sullied by the tainted lard scandal, Lin said: “Probably not, but it will require an effort from everybody.”

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Anna Kao (高安) said on Thursday that the representative office “had made inquiries to Italian health authorities, who preliminarily informed us that they did not have related administrative measures to block sales of face mask products from Taiwan.”

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