Important issues concerning agriculture will be brought to the negotiating table in annual trade and economic talks between Taiwan and Japan that are to be held in Taipei on Tuesday and Wednesday, a Taiwanese official who declined to be named said.
Discussions on agricultural issues were suspended in the Taiwan-Japan Trade and Economic Meeting last year due to Japan’s dissatisfaction with Taiwan’s refusal to ease a ban on food imports from five prefectures in Japan, over fears of radiation contamination following a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.
For this year’s meeting, Japan seems to have changed its mind now that Taiwan has a new president — President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party, who took office on May 20.
This year, the Japanese side has expressed a willingness to discuss the impasse, the official — who is to attend the talks — said yesterday.
In addition, the official said that Taipei would ask Japan to open its market to five Taiwan-grown fruits — Indian jujubes, ponkans (a kind of mandarin orange), guavas, white-meat dragonfruit and mangoes, not including Irwin mangoes, which can already be exported to Japan.
However, Japanese officials have not appeared receptive to Taiwan’s signaling that it wishes to export these fruits during meetings held over the past several months in preparation for the trade talks, the official said, attributing the passive attitude of Japanese officials to Taiwan’s ban on food imports from the five prefectures and rising public opposition to the lifting of the embargo.
This year “the atmosphere is unusual. The degree of challenge will be quite high,” the official said.
Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), president of Taiwan’s Association of East Asian Relations, and his Japanese counterpart, Mitsuo Ohashi, chairman of the Japan Interchange Association, are to head the delegations of the two sides.
During the meeting, several panels will discuss different areas, including general policies, technical exchanges in the agricultural, fishery and medical industries, and protection of intellectual property rights, the official said.
The reason the agricultural issue was shelved in November last year’s meeting was said to be mainly because Japan was upset with Taiwan’s reluctance to lift its food ban, despite what Japan said were effective measures taken to resolve a high-profile label forgery scandal that erupted in March that year.
Food and Drug Administration inspectors discovered that several traders had replaced the Japanese label of origin on packages of banned Japanese food products, before importing them into Taiwan.
The scandal prompted Taipei to tighten customs inspections.
Tsai’s administration is now considering lifting the ban on food imports from Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures — leaving the ban on products from Fukishima Prefecture in place — but has encountered heavy opposition, mainly over food safety concerns.
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