Relaxing restrictions on food imports from five Japanese prefectures is crucial to the development of Taiwan’s relationship with Japan, a researcher told lawmakers at the legislature in Taipei on Friday.
The most opportune time to relax the restrictions would be the first half of this year to avoid the issue being politicized during this year’s local elections, National Sun Yat-sen University professor of political science Kuo Yu-jen (郭育仁) said.
Food imports from the five prefectures — which were banned after the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster — would not account for much market share and would not be priced as competitively as domestic products, Kuo said.
“The referendum period has passed. The government should deal with this rationally and scientifically now, rather than have it be mired by political manipulation later,” he said.
Only Taiwan, South Korea and China ban food products from the five prefectures, which implies that there is little scientific basis for it, he said, adding that failing to lift the ban could affect Taiwan’s efforts to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Later, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) said that Taiwan needs two additional representative offices in Japan.
Taiwan has offices in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Fukuoka, Naha and Sapporo, but some areas of Japan do not have an office, which are needed for consular services, Tsai said.
Tsai compared Taiwan’s representation in Japan with that in South Korea, where the nation has 10 representative offices.
The offices are not spread out enough and people needing consular services in Japan’s Chugoku and Shikoku regions have no convenient option, he said.
Establishing offices in Hiroshima and Sendai cities would solve the issue, he said.
Kuo said that building more offices in Japan would benefit relations, as some pro-Taiwan officials in Japan represent regions in which Taiwan has no representation.
For example, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida previously represented Hiroshima as a member of Japan’s House of Representatives, Kuo said.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said that the ministry has discussed the possibility of adding offices in Japan, but has not finalized any plans.
The ministry’s resources are limited and it must establish offices where they will have the greatest strategic value, Wu said.
Given the good state of ties between Taiwan and Japan, there is no need to establish more representative offices there, he said.
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