Annual trade and economic talks between Taiwan and Japan started in Taipei on Tuesday, with the heads of the two delegations highlighting their main areas of concern.
Chiou I-jen (???), head of Taiwan's delegation and president of the Association of East Asian Relations (AEAR), discussed forging an economic partnership agreement (EPA) with Japan.
Chiou noted that the two countries have signed 45 bilateral agreements over the past four decades, adding that Taiwan's effort to join the World Trade Organization was first discussed in talks with Japan.
"We look forward to starting talks on Taiwan joining the Trans Pacific Partnership and Taiwan-Japan economic partnership agreement in the near future," Chiou said.
He noted that although there remain difficulties to be addressed, these can be overcome based on the long-term friendship between the two countries.
Ohashi Mitsuno, head of the Japanese delegation and chairman of the Japan Interchange Association, expressed the hope that Taiwan will soon lift a ban on food products from five radiation-affected Japanese prefectures.
He noted that Taiwan still has restrictions on some Japanese foods and said that recently "unfounded" criticism of Japanese food had deeply hurt the feelings of the Japanese people.
However, Ohashi also expressed Japan's appreciation of efforts made by the Taiwanese government on the issue.
Meanwhile, AEAR Secretary-General Tsai Ming-yao (???), said Japan has sought to make progress on the issue for many years and Ohashi's remarks were "not a surprise."
However, he reiterated that whether the ban on Japanese food products will be lifted is not a matter the current talks would deal with. "We will not discuss the issue, nor can we make a decision on it."
He said the matter will be assessed by related government agencies, with the focus being on safeguarding the health of Taiwanese nationals.
Taiwan has banned imports of food products from five prefectures in Japan - Fukushima, Gunma, Chiba, Ibaraki and Tochigi - that were contaminated with radioactive substances following the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011, a catastrophe triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
Taiwan's government is now considering lifting the ban on food from all the prefectures except Fukushima, but has run into virulent opposition.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel
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