Japan

Taiwan negotiating with Japan on solution to food ban

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President Tsai Ing-wen said Saturday that her government is seeking an "acceptable" solution to the thorny issue of the island's import ban on Japanese food products imposed after the 2011 nuclear disaster.

During a question-and-answer session with foreign media at the Presidential Office on Saturday, she said her government has consistently stressed the importance of food safety while basing its decisions on scientific evidence and international standards.

"In the future, we will continue to communicate with Japan under the spirit of the World Trade Organization and hopefully find a solution both sides find acceptable," she said.

The remarks were her first on the ban since Taiwan's public in November voted in a referendum to maintain the prohibition on agricultural imports and food from five Japanese prefectures.

In addition to expressing regret over the referendum result, Tokyo has said it did not rule out taking the matter to the WTO.

The trade body has already ruled that South Korea's import ban on seafood from Fukushima Prefecture and other parts of Japan is "arbitrarily and unjustifiably" discriminatory. South Korea has appealed the ruling.

Tsai said that her government will honor the referendum, which is legally binding. Policy steps should be taken in line with the result for two years in principle.

As Japan has been the No. 1 destination for Taiwanese tourists and Japanese products remain popular among Taiwanese consumers, Tsai said she hopes the "isolated issue" will not have a negative impact on overall Taiwan-Japan relations.

Despite the absence of diplomatic ties, which were severed in 1972, the unofficial relationship between Taiwan and Japan has remained robust.

Japan is Taiwan's third-largest trading partner after China, including Hong Kong, while Taiwan is Japan's fourth-largest trading partner.

Bilateral trade totaled US$62.7 billion last year, up about 4 percent from the previous year. Japanese investment in Taiwan last year also increased more than 84 percent from the previous year to US$649 million.

© KYODO

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