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Taiwan should reassess Japan food ban: Taiwan's envoy to Japan

2018/02/02 17:43:09

CNA file photo

Taipei, Feb. 2 (CNA) It's been nearly seven years since Japan's nuclear meltdown, and Taiwan should make a decision on lifting its ban on food products from Japanese prefectures affected by the disaster based on principles of free trade and scientific data, Taiwan's representative to Japan Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said in a recent interview.

Hsieh said Taiwan should come up with a policy that is based on the government's years of food product testing and takes into consideration what many developed countries in the West are doing about the situation.

Following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in March 2011, Taiwan imposed a ban on food imports from Fukushima prefecture and the nearby prefectures of Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba, fearing that they could contain radioactive substances.

This action was in line with global practices at the time, as 54 countries implemented restrictions on certain Japanese goods following the meltdown, but countries have eased their bans in recent years.

The U.S. and the European Union announced in September and November 2017, respectively, that they would partially lift the ban on certain Japanese products imposed after the disaster.

As Taiwan is currently the third largest importer of Japanese food, Japan has asked it to reconsider its ban on several occasions.

But while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government has been sympathetic to the appeals, the idea has meant heavy resistance.

Not long after the DPP took power in May 2016, for example, there was talk of lifting the ban on food products from the five prefectures except for Fukushima, but the plan was subsequently shelved after facing stiff opposition from civil groups and opposition parties.

The DPP government seems to be making another public relations bid to swing public opinion. Hsieh's comments came soon after Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) recommended that the government ease the rules on non-contaminated products from Japan.

"It's time to reassess Taiwan's policy on Japanese food imports. The government might follow the United States and adopt risk-based restrictions instead of the current ban that is based on regions," Chen said during a press conference on Monday.

Deputy minister Ho Chi-kung (何啟功) asserted that some of the banned food products from the five prefectures were safe and agreed with the minister that it was time for a reassessment of the policy.

Amid these appeals, Cabinet spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said Tuesday that the government will look at three factors -- public health, global standards, and scientific data -- in determining how it wants to move forward on the ban.

The Cabinet, however, has yet to convene a meeting to address the bans on food imports from Japan, he said.

(By Kuan-lin Liu, Huang Ming-hsi and Chang Ming-hsuan)
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