Public’s health not a bargaining chip for CPTPP access: official

Taipei-Taiwan will not agree to lift an import ban on food items from areas in Japan affected by radioactive fallout from a nuclear power plant meltdown in 2011 to gain access to a regional trade bloc led by Japan, an economic official told lawmakers Monday.

At a hearing of the Legislature's Economics Committee, Vice Economics Minister Wang Mei-hua (???) said Taiwan has clearly spelled out in international forums its interest in joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

But no matter what Taiwan strives for, whether in pursuit of bilateral or multilateral trade deals, it always faces challenges, which are even "tougher in the political area," she said.

When asked if the government would compromise on its ban on Japanese food imports to gain access to the CPTPP, which is now being led by Japan after the U.S.'s withdrawal from its predecessor, the TPP, Wang said the government "will never sacrifice citizens' health."

Wang argued, however, that Taiwan and China are the only two countries in the world that still maintain such bans, and Taiwan's resistance to lifting it has drawn persistent complaints from Japan.

Japan always brings up the issue in the annual trade and economic meeting with Taiwan, and if Taiwan wants to join the multilateral CPTPP, it still has to deal with the issue, she admitted.

The food import ban covers items from five prefectures -- Chiba, Gunma, Fukushima, Ibaraki, and Tochigi -- affected by radiation contamination from the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011.

At one point last year, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government said it was considering lifting the ban on food from all of the prefectures except for Fukushima, but the idea ran into strong public opposition and was dropped.

Lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties raised the issue at the Legislature on Monday after Japanese broadcaster NHK reported last week that Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (???) promised the governor of Chiba Prefecture to support sales of agricultural items from Chiba at agricultural events planned by Taoyuan in April next year.

Taoyuan Department of Public Information Director Xavier Chang (???) said on Monday, however, that the county will not introduce food or agricultural products from radiation-contaminated areas.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel