Key food import ban agenda in CPTPP talks with Japan
Taipei, Oct 24 (ANC) Taiwan’s decade-long ban on imports of Japanese food products from areas affected by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster will be the key agenda in bilateral negotiations now that Taiwan has officially applied to join a Tokyo-led trade bloc, the country’s top trade negotiator told CNA.
Speaking in a recent interview, Minister without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振 中), head of the Cabinet’s Trade Negotiations Office, said Taiwan faces its current ban on imports of agricultural and food products from regions of Japan affected by Fukushima. Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster on March 11, 2011.
Although the Japanese government has publicly stated that it will not consider resolving the issue a priority for Tokyo’s support for Taipei’s bid for the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), Deng said the dispute had to be settled. sooner or later.
“Taiwan will bring the issue to the negotiating table once the two sides begin formal talks to join the CPTPP,” Deng said.
Japan’s public and private sectors have repeatedly and openly expressed concerns about the ban for years, even though Tokyo exports tens of thousands of other products to Taiwan each year, Deng said.
Among the issues likely to be discussed in future bilateral negotiations on lifting the ban are the specification of the type of food and agricultural products that will be allowed to enter the Taiwan market, which government unit will be responsible for inspecting products imported from Japan and what kinds of certificate documents must be prepared in advance, according to the Minister.
“The lifting of the ban will be decided solely on the basis of scientific evidence,” he said, adding that the government will only allow such imports as long as it is scientifically proven that they are safe for the population. consumption and can be easily differentiated from other products, and an appropriate system to manage them is in place.
For food security reasons, the Kuomintang government (KMT) then in power in Taiwan had banned imports of food and agricultural products from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba in the aftermath of the disaster.
It further tightened restrictions in 2015, when products from those prefectures were discovered on store shelves in Taiwan, sparking sharp criticism from the Japanese government, which pushed Taiwan to lift the ban.
Since taking power back in May 2016, the ruling Progressive Democratic Party (DPP) has said it plans to lift the ban, but has faced strong internal opposition. No progress has been made on the issue since then.
The CPTPP, which emerged from the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the United States left the pact in January 2017, is one of the largest trading blocs in the world, representing a market of 500 million people and 13.5% of world trade.
Its 11 signatories are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Taiwan’s application to join the CPTPP was filed on September 22.
According to Deng, after submitting the candidacy, Taiwan is now actively in talks with the 11 CPTPP members to seek their support and learn about the pressing issues of concern to each member state.
Aside from Japan, Deng said talks with Australia and Singapore shouldn’t be too difficult since Taiwan doesn’t have a major trade dispute with the two countries.
However, he admitted that talks with Vietnam are likely to be thorny as the two countries compete in agricultural exports.
Deng said that applying for CPTPP membership is the biggest step Taiwan has taken in terms of international trade after joining the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Taiwan’s bid to join the CPTPP came less than a week after China also applied to join the trade group, suggesting a rush from Taipei in response to Beijing’s bid.
The government of Taiwan has expressed concern that if China joins the free trade bloc first, it will be a major obstacle for Taiwan, as the Chinese government may oppose its membership.
When asked if he was concerned that China would join the CPTPP before Taiwan like it did the WTO, Deng said that in the early 2000s economies around the world had high expectations of China. , which was then experiencing a significant economic boom and was ready to open up to the world.
“How does the world see China now? Deng asked.
Taiwan applied for membership in the WTO in 1999 before it officially joined in January 2002. China’s accession to the WTO took place in December 2001, a month before Taiwan’s.
Allowing a new member to join the trade bloc will require consensus among all members, he said, adding that Australia, which faces economic sanctions from China, for example, has already voiced its objection. Beijing’s candidacy for the CPTPP.
Unlike China, Deng said that compared to 19 years ago, Taiwan is now a mature, rules-based economy that fully respects the protection of private property.
Deng did not provide an estimate of how long it would take Taiwan to join the trade bloc, citing uncertainties about the membership process. But he is convinced that it will be shorter than the time it took for Taiwan to join the WTO.