Talks focus on ending food ban in Japan

Executive Yuan, ministers and DPP caucus hold meeting on possibility of lifting food ban in five Japanese prefectures

  • By Lee Hsin-fang, Lin Liang-sheng and Kayleigh Madjar / Staff Reporters, with a Staff Writer

The government appears set to lift the ban on agricultural imports from five Japanese prefectures that was implemented following the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster, although lengthy conversations are taking place before a date for lifting the ban was set, a person familiar with said the matter.

Initial talks on the possibility of lifting the ban took place on Friday between members of the Executive Yuan, heads of several ministries and the caucus of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

No timetable has been presented, although the accelerated pace of discussions suggests that the government intends to move forward.

Photo: ANC

As to when an announcement might be expected, a government official said on condition of anonymity that senior officials had not yet made a decision.

Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) told the meeting that Taiwan’s food safety inspection standards are stricter than those set by the UN’s Codex Alimentarius Commission, US and EU.

Yuan executive spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) added that Taiwan opposes any radioactive contamination and will abide by international standards and scientific evidence when importing any food products.

During deliberations, officials and lawmakers also raised concerns about calling agricultural products from the five prefectures “nuclear foods” in Chinese, suggesting instead that they be called “agricultural products from Fukushima and surrounding areas”.

A person familiar with the discussions said DPP lawmakers present unanimously backed the idea of ​​lifting the ban.

Once the ban is lifted, the Cabinet reportedly intends to improve messaging on import safety standards to reassure the public.

A ban on food imports from Fukushima, Gunma, Chiba, Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures was implemented over fears of radioactive contamination. Only Taiwan, South Korea and China maintain bans, while the US, EU and other countries have resumed imports.

Taiwan’s ban has drawn repeated protests from Tokyo and raised fears it could affect Taipei’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

A referendum to keep the ban, held in November 2018, passed by a 78-22% margin, but the result was only legally binding for two years.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday clarified its stance on the issue after coming under fire from within the pan-Blue camp for saying it tentatively backs the resumption of imports from prefectures.

The party, in a statement on Friday, said it would agree to resume imports “as long as Japan can guarantee their safety.”

Broadcasting Corp of China Chairman Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康) said on Saturday that he “almost fainted” while reading the statement, adding that the KMT had always opposed the imports, but that he now wanted to get closer to the DPP by offering him a “huge gift”.

Overall, agricultural imports from Japan have not been affected by the ban, increasing by 50 to 100 percent since its implementation, he added.

The DPP must present a set of data to support its plan, so it is the duty of the KMT to present data in opposition, Jaw said, adding that there is “no other way”.

“It is impossible to please everyone,” he added.

KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) said yesterday that the party was “100% opposed” to anything that harms public health and would collect information about it to share with the public.

However, if the DPP uses so-called international exchanges for political purposes, the KMT would vehemently oppose it, he added.

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