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Taiwan, Japan to hold annual trade meeting this week

2018/11/26 12:46:26

Image taken from Pixabay

Taipei, Nov. 26 (CNA) Taiwan and Japan are set to hold their annual economic and trade meeting in Taipei this week with the aim of enhancing bilateral cooperation and exchanges, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Monday.

Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), head of the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association (TJRA), and Mitsuo Ohashi (大橋光夫), chairman of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association (JTEA), will lead the delegations from their respective countries to the meeting on Thursday and Friday, the ministry said.

The MOFA-funded TJRA handles Taiwan-Japan relations in the absence of official diplomatic ties, while the JTEA is its Japanese counterpart.

At last year's meeting in Tokyo, the TJRA and JTEA signed two memorandums of understanding (MOUs) designed to enhance bilateral cooperation and exchanges.

The annual conference, which was first held in 1976, comes at a sensitive time, days after Taiwanese voted in favor of a referendum to maintain a ban on imports of agricultural and food products from areas in Japan that were affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in 2011.

In a statement Sunday, Japan's top envoy to Taiwan Mikio Numata said the issue had been "politicized" and he called on Taiwan and Japan to work together to avoid hurting their cordial bilateral ties and economic exchanges.

"We will continue to do our best to convince our friends in Taiwan of the safety of Japanese food products and we sincerely hope the ban will be lifted soon," Numata said.

In response, MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said the ministry will cautiously engage in talks with Japan over the referendum result to seek their understanding and ensure that the cordial bilateral relations are not affected.

However, Lee declined to confirm whether the matter will be discussed at the upcoming trade meeting in Taipei, saying only that the two sides will exchange views on a number of issues pertaining to bilateral economic and trade relations.

The referendum, initiated by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), was one of 10 held alongside Saturday's local government elections.

It asked voters whether they agreed that the government should maintain the ban on imports of agricultural products and food from areas in Japan affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster, namely Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures.

Among the nearly 10 million ballots cast on the question, 78 percent were in support of the ban, while 22 percent were against it.

The ban on food products from radiation contaminated areas of Japan was imposed in 2011 by the then-KMT government and was tightened in 2015 after products from some of the listed Japanese prefectures were found on store shelves in Taiwan.

Since the Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2016, it has been considering lifting the ban on food imports from all of the prefectures except Fukushima but has encountered heavy public opposition to the idea.

(By Joseph Yeh)