Thu, Aug 20, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Control Yuan probe of two ministries, JTI deal sought

"LETHAL PRODUCT":The Japanese firm’s factory deal should have been rejected as Taiwan observes the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, activists said

Staff writer, with CNA

In a complaint to the Control Yuan, a group of anti-tobacco activists has accused three Cabinet agencies of dereliction of duty for allowing an international tobacco manufacturer to build a factory in Taiwan.

John Tung Foundation chief executive Yau Sea-wain (姚思遠), Consumers’ Foundation vice chairman Yu Kai-hsiung (游開雄) and two celebrity volunteers filed the accusation against the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Health Promotion Administration.

They called on the Control Yuan to stop the construction of Japan Tobacco International’s (JTI) factory in the Tainan Technology Industrial Park.

Yau said that the Statute for Investment by Foreign Nationals (外國人投資條例) bars foreign investors from investing in sectors that are harmful to public health.

However, the economic affairs ministry only classifies tobacco manufacturing as an industry in which foreign and expatriate investors are “restricted,” not “prohibited” from investing in.

The economics’ ministry’s regulation obviously “violates the statute,” Yau said.

Health authorities failed to alert the economic ministry when it was reviewing JTI’s investment application in 2013 that Taiwan observes the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of the WHO, Yau said.

The convention defines tobacco as a lethal product and states that WHO members are restrained from providing preferential treatment to the establishment of new tobacco companies or an expansion of the industry.

The JTI applied to build a production line in Taiwan two years ago with an investment of NT$9.2 billion (US$281.6 million at current exchange rates).

The project was given the green light last year after the company secured a plot of land in the Tainan park, the economics ministry said.

Yau said that because the health authorities did not provide enough data about the project or express opposition to it, the economics ministry not only approved JTI’s application, but included the plan in its preferential land leasing program for investors in industrial parks.

The practice violates the WHO’s convention, Yau said.

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