Taiwan-Japan trade talks conclude with signing of two memorandums
Taipei, Nov. 30 (CNA) Annual trade and economic talks between Taiwan and Japan concluded in Taipei Wednesday, with the two sides signing two cooperation memorandums on product safety and language education.
Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), head of the Taiwan delegation and president of the Association of East Asian Relations (AEAR), and his Japanese counterpart, Japan Interchange Association Chairman Mitsuo Ohashi, signed the notes stipulating that the two countries will work together in the promotion of exchanges in the two areas.
Chiou and Ohashi left the venue without speaking to the press after the signing ceremony, but they agreed to be photographed.
Outside the venue, several dozen activists staged a protest against radiation-contaminated food products. The protest came after Ohashi urged Taiwan at the opening of the annual talks a day earlier to lift a ban on food products from five radiation-affected Japanese prefectures.
Asked if Japan had asked Taiwan to ease the ban during the two-day trade and economic meeting, AEAR Deputy Secretary-General Tsai Wei-kan (蔡偉淦) confirmed in a press conference held after the event that the Japanese side brought up the request, as had been expected.
However, the Taiwanese delegates expressed hope for understanding that there are still disputes over the issue, and that they would not discuss the issue during the annual talks, since it was not on the agenda, Tsai said.
Taiwan has banned imports of food products from five prefectures in Japan — Fukushima, Gunma, Chiba, Ibaraki and Tochigi — that were contaminated with radiation following the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011, a catastrophe triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
After Taiwan’s new government, inaugurated in May, revealed recently that it was considering lifting the ban on food from all of those prefectures except Fukushima, the idea has received strong opposition.
Economics Minister Lee Chih-kung (李世光) confirmed Wednesday that the controversial issue of Japanese food imports was not on the agenda of the 41st Taiwan-Japan Trade and Economic Meeting.
“It has been the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ consistent stance that no compromise can be made in the people’s welfare in the area of food safety,” Lee told the press.
He also agreed that all food regulations should meet international regulations and scientific rules.
Meanwhile, elaborating upon what was discussed during the meeting, Tsai said that Taiwan, as usual, asked Japan to co-sign an economic partnership agreement (EPA).
Such a pact is not just one that touches on simply economic problems, Tsai said, but involves political considerations.
Nevertheless, the Japanese side said its stance in establishing a comprehensive trade and investment relationship with Taiwan has not changed, he went on.
As for a request by Taiwan for Japan to open its doors to five more kinds of Taiwan-grown fruit, Tsai said the Japanese side requires more data and relevant documents.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Liu Ming-tang (劉明堂), head of the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection, said the cooperation memorandum on product safety mainly focuses on electronic and electrical products, as well as machinery.
It will help reduce safety risks, allowing consumers to enjoy a higher level of safety protection, Liu said.
On the language education memorandum, the Taiwanese delegation said that under the pact, personnel exchanges will be conducted in the hope of upgrading the quality of language and culture education on both sides.
The Taiwan-Japan trade and economic meeting has been the only official platform for Taiwanese and Japanese officials to discuss issues of mutual concern since diplomatic relations between the two countries were severed in 1972. It has been held annually since 1976.