Food import ban issue unavoidable in CPTPP talks with Japan: minister

Although the government has yet to start discussions on lifting Taiwan's ban on some Japanese food imports, the nation's economic minister said Thursday the issue is certain to be brought up when the two countries begin official talks on Taiwan's bid to join a Tokyo-led trade bloc.

As Japan plays a leading role in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the issue of lifting the ban on imports of Japanese food products from areas affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster will absolutely be raised once Taiwan starts negotiations with Japan on its accession to the trade pact, Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (???) said prior to delivering a report to the Legislative Yuan's Economic Affairs Committee.

Wang's report focused on the impact of continuing to ban imports of Japanese food products from areas contaminated with radiation on Taiwan's bid to join the CPTPP and the country's response strategy.

During the legislative session, Kuomintang Legislator Tseng Ming-chung (???) asked Wang to confirm whether the government has decided to lift the ban on imports of Japanese food products from five prefectures affected by the nuclear disaster, Wang said she had no information on that issue.

Wang's report came after Minister Without Portfolio John Deng (???), Taiwan's top trade negotiator, said Monday that there is no timetable for talks with Japan on lifting the ban.

However, Deng also noted that Taiwan's import controls on Japanese food are certain to come up in talks, especially following the referendum defeat of a proposed ban on imports of pork products containing the controversial livestock drug ractopamine.

The referendum defeat is considered pivotal in determining the government's move to lift the ban on Japanese food imports.

However, the government has yet to discuss the issue and there is no timetable to do so, according to Executive Yuan spokesperson Lo Ping-cheng (???), who spoke to reporters after a Cabinet meeting Thursday.

Also attending the Economic Affairs Committee hearing Thursday, Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung (???) said if Taiwan joins the CPTPP, there will be a sharp cut in the tariffs levied on exports of agricultural produce.

Moreover, agricultural produce processing industries are expected to benefit from Taiwan's admission to the trade bloc, as they will be able to import a wide variety of raw materials at lower costs, Chen added.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (???) said Thursday during another legislative hearing that Taiwan will not let in imports of Japanese food products contaminated with radiation, adding that there is no timetable for negotiations on the issue with Japan.

Taiwan currently bans food imports from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba, all of which were affected by the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011 following a major earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

Taiwan officially applied to join the CPTPP in September.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel