Taipei, Feb. 8 (CNA) The status of imports of Japanese food products from areas affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has been an issue of contention in Taiwan over the past few years.
The dispute centers on an import ban on food products from five Japanese prefectures — Fukushima, where the nuclear disaster happened, and neighboring Gunma, Chiba, Ibaraki, and Tochigi.
The following are some of the key developments in the controversy since 2011:
March 11, 2011
A magnitude 9.0-earthquake occurred off the coast of northeastern Japan, triggering a tsunami that later struck the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and caused a meltdown.
The accident was rated level 7 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, due to high radioactive releases in the following days, according to the World Nuclear Association, an international organization representing the global nuclear industry.
March 15, 2011
Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began subjecting eight categories of food products from Japan to batch-by-batch border inspections for radioactive residue. The eight categories were fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, fresh and frozen aquatic products, dairy products, baby food, mineral water and drinking water, and seaweed. Tea products were later added to the FDA’s inspection list.
March 26, 2011
Following an FDA directive issued on March 25, Taiwan banned the imports of food products from Fukushima and its neighboring four prefectures, namely Gunma, Chiba, Ibaraki, and Tochigi.
May 15, 2015
The FDA further tightened restrictions on Japanese food imports after products from Fukushima and its neighboring four prefectures were discovered on store shelves in Taiwan. According to the FDA’s new directives, the imports of food products from the five prefectures remained banned, while those from other parts of Japan would not be allowed to enter Taiwan without certificates of origin and/or radioactivity testing.
Nov. 10, 2016
The Democratic Progressive Party government said it was considering easing the import ban on Japanese food products from the prefectures except for Fukushima Prefecture. The announcement was met with strong objections from civil society groups and opposition parties.
March 15, 2018
Former Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), then-Kuomintang (KMT) deputy chairman, submitted a referendum initiative about the Japanese food import ban to the Central Election Commission (CEC) for an initial review. The initiative later cleared two major hurdles and was approved by the CEC to be put to a vote.
The referendum question asked voters, “Do you agree that the government should maintain its ban on the imports of agricultural and food products from areas affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident on March 11, 2011 such as Fukushima Prefecture and neighboring Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, and Chiba prefectures?”
Nov. 24, 2018
The referendum on maintaining the Japanese food import ban passed by a vote of 7,791,856 to 2,231,425, or by a 78-22 percent margin.
Nov. 25, 2018
Mikio Numata, Japan’s representative to Taiwan at the time, said in a statement that he “deeply regretted” the result of the referendum related to the Japanese food import ban.
Sept. 22, 2021
Taiwan officially applied to join the Tokyo-led Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), one of the world’s largest trade blocs, about a week after China submitted its application.
Speaking during a press conference to announce the application, Minister without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中), the head of the Cabinet’s Office of Trade Negotiations, said Taiwan would have to deal with its existing import restrictions on Japanese food products from the areas affected by the 2011 disaster.
Sept. 22, 2021
As of Sept. 22, 2021, 41 of 55 countries and regions, or 74.5 percent of the total, that introduced import restrictions on Japanese food products after the 2011 disaster had entirely lifted those restrictions, according to data from Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Sept. 23, 2021
Japan’s then-Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said his government “welcomes Taiwan’s application” to join the CPTPP, but added it would need to examine whether Taiwan was ready to meet the high standards for market access and other rules of the trade pact.
Jan. 26, 2022
Following media reports suggesting that the DPP would soon lift the import ban, Eric Chu (朱立倫), chairman of Taiwan’s main opposition KMT, said his party opposed any plans to do so without scientific evidence that ensures food safety.
Feb. 8, 2022
Taiwan announced it would lift the decade-long ban on Japanese food imports by the end of February.
(By Teng Pei-ju)
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