COA mulls WTO appeal over China import ban

09/20/2021 04:29 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, Sept. 20 (CNA) The Council of Agriculture (COA) on Monday said it is considering an appeal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over a Chinese ban on imports of Taiwanese wax apples and custard apples that took effect on the same day.

The halt was announced by China at about 9 a.m. on Sunday without prior warning and prompted the Cabinet-level council to hold an emergency presser in response.

In a notice issued by the Department of Animal and Plant Quarantine under China's General Administration of Customs, China cited the discovery of mealybug Planococcus minor as the reason for the suspension.

According to the notice, mealybugs have been found in several shipments this year.

This is the second time this year China has suspended imports of fruit from Taiwan for mealybugs, following a ban on pineapples at the end of February.

During the press conference on Sunday, the COA dismissed the accusations in the notice and questioned the protocols implemented by China.

COA chief Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) also added that the council would consider appealing to the WTO if China does not further explain its decision by the end of September.

In an interview with CNA, COA deputy minister Chen Junne-jih (陳駿季) said the council issued a response to China immediately after the Sunday presser.

Chen said the COA elaborated on the decision to involve the WTO in the response, stating that China was not abiding by the WTO regulated "Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS)."

As the COA intends to follow WTO regulations, the council will definitely bring a dispute settlement case to the WTO should China fail to provide an satisfactory answer by the end of September.

Once the case is submitted, Chen said, various bodies including the Cabinet's Office of Trade Negotiations (OTN) and Taiwan's foreign missions would be involved in any resolution of the disagreement with China.

COA Department of International Affairs head Lin Chia-jung (林家榮) said that as a member of the WTO, Taiwan has never before brought a dispute to the organization on agriculture related issues.

Lin reiterated that this is not the first time China unilaterally suspended the import of Taiwan's agricultural products, which legitimizes the COA decision to involve the WTO, whose decisions are determined by scientific evidence not politics.

He cited previous disputes between Japan and Korea over seafood, and the disagreement between the United States and the European Union over hormones in beef as proof of the WTO's impartiality.

While Lin believes Taiwan will stand up to scientific scrutiny if a dispute is submitted, he noted that the negotiation and investigation process could take between 180 days and two years to complete.

On Sunday evening, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took to Facebook to address the ban. Tsai condemned China's one-sided decision, stating that it violated WTO regulations.

Tsai also said she has instructed COA chief Chen Chi-chung to ensure the ban has only a minimal impact on Taiwanese farmers, and called for cross-party unity in the face of such political interference.

(By Yang Shu-min and James Lo)

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