Rational discussions should be held at the public hearings on a ban on food imports from five prefectures in Japan, the Association of East Asian Relations said yesterday.
The association is in charge of handling ties with Japan in the absence of formal diplomatic relations, with its counterpart, Japan’s Interchange Association.
Speaking at a news conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, association Secretary-General Peter Tsai (蔡明耀) criticized the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) for mobilizing a group of people to protest at a public hearing in New Taipei City on Sunday.
“It was wrong to disrupt the event. Public hearings are places where people communicate with each other rationally,” Tsai said.
Due to the great importance Tokyo attaches to its friendship with Taipei, the Japanese government has refrained from taking the nation’s import ban to the WTO and hopes that the issue will be resolved in a rational manner, Tsai said.
Citing WTO regulations, Tsai said trade restrictions should be placed on items based on their categories rather than on the area where they are manufactured.
“It is understandable when restrictions are imposed for the sake of public safety, but five years have passed and it is time for us to rationally evaluate the safety of Japanese food,” Tsai said.
Taipei imposed an import ban on all food products from Japan’s Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures in the wake of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant meltdown in March 2011.
The government’s inclination to lift the ban has faced fierce opposition from the KMT.
Most of the 11 public hearings the Executive Yuan has held thus far were disrupted by scuffles and verbal clashes. Two more hearings are scheduled for Monday next week and Jan. 8.
Calling on the government to draw from the example of the US’ and the EU’s handling of Japanese food imports, Tsai said their import regulations are synchronized with those of Japan, meaning they only import food products that are being sold locally in Japan.
Tsai also dismissed the speculation that there is a fixed timetable for the government’s relaxation of the import ban, adding that Tokyo would not export food products contaminated by radiation.