Taiwanese have had misgivings about the safety of Japanese food since the nuclear disaster that followed the massive March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and Japan should have more patience in dealing with the issue, Association of East Asian Relations chairman Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進) said.
Lee said Taiwan is Japan’s third-largest export market for its agricultural products. For example, 90 percent of Aomori Prefecture’s apple exports go to Taiwan, he said.
Lee said it was only natural for people to be concerned about food safety, and if doubts exist about Japanese food, Japan should go out of its way to put Taiwanese at ease.
“The matter has nothing to do with politics,” Lee said.
Japan has expressed its displeasure with a move by the Ministry of Health and Welfare to tighten regulations on Japanese food imports after products from five nuclear-affected prefectures — Gunma, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Chiba — were found on the Taiwanese market last month with faked labels.
The new measures, requested by the legislature, are to require Japanese food products to show their specific places of origin rather than just the country of origin, and some products would also require a radiation inspection certificate.
Lee was responding to remarks by a member of the Japanese Diet from Gunma Prefecture, who said in a meeting on Friday that Taiwan’s tougher stance on food imports was a political move.
“The patience of Gunma has its limits, and it will soon explode,” Hiroyoshi Sasakawa said, while another Japanese lawmaker said that “it is time for the Japanese government to take the case to the WTO.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration said it attaches great importance to the issue and plans to send a delegation headed by his special adviser to Taipei on Thursday.
One Liberal Democratic Party official said that the visit had been previously scheduled, but the issue of Taiwan tightening regulations on imported Japanese food was added to the agenda after the dispute emerged.
Members of the Japanese Diet are all best friends of Taiwan, and “everything can be discussed between good friends,” the party official said.
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