Time to drop Fukushima food ban

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  • By Wang Hui-sheng 王輝生

Lifting the import ban on pork containing traces of ractopamine will help Taiwan build international business partnerships.

Now that the referendum chaos is out, the ban will not be reinstated. Taiwanese voters turned their backs on senseless populism in favor of rationality, demonstrated exceptional maturity, and acted as an impressive check and balance on the political process.

Three years ago, Taiwanese who opposed the importation of food from northeastern Japan began labeling them “nuclear food” and lobbied for the first and only “referendum on food. anti-nuclear ”.

The ruling Progressive Democratic Party (DPP) did not challenge the referendum question head-on and voters were afraid of the word “nuclear”. The referendum question, put to a vote alongside a host of other questions in the chaotic nine-in-one election of 2018, has been adopted.

The 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster was a national trauma for Japan, and Taiwan’s unexpected decision was akin to rubbing salt on its wounds.

Then Japanese Prime Minister, friend of Taiwan Shinzo Abe, refrained from commenting on the situation, leaving that to then Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, and took no retaliatory action towards Taiwan.

Japan has since changed direction. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is a member of the influential Kochikai faction of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has had ties to China for six decades.

Ahead of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and China in September next year, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) gave Kishida a congratulatory phone call after his election as prime minister.

Kishida has also complied with China’s expectations by appointing Yoshimasa Hayashi, a friend of China, as foreign minister – an olive branch to China.

The Japanese House of Councilors election is scheduled for July next year. Given the strong anti-Chinese sentiment among the Japanese, the Kishida administration would not dare to go openly against the will of the public. Taiwan and members of the Friends of the United States party pressured Kishida to clarify the PLD’s position on Taiwan-US-China policy.

Kishida expressed support for Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly and its candidacy for the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

If Taiwan can take this opportunity to lift the ban on imports of Japanese food from the nuclear disaster-affected areas as a sign of good faith, not only would it seem good to both Kishida and members of his party friends of Taiwan, it could also bring comfort to the victims of the events of 2011. Why not push for a policy that can kill two birds with one stone?

The successful referendum of 2018 – on the imposition of a general ban on the importation of food and agricultural products from the prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba – at the time dashed Taiwan’s hopes of join the CPTPP.

None of the CPTPP members have diplomatic relations with Taipei, so if Taiwan is to join, it needs the United States and Japan as mediators.

If the referendum on the pork import ban – promoted by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) – had succeeded, it would have offended the United States. The Taiwanese rejected this.

If the KMT also continues to provoke Japan, there will be little hope for the party to ever return to power.

As for the 2018 referendum, the Taiwanese said “no” to radioactive contamination of food, not all food in northeastern Japan.

The KMT’s opposition to the opposition is likely to fade. When the country faced a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines and a Chinese import ban on pineapples and wax apples, Japan stood by Taiwan’s side.

It is high time to reciprocate and lift the embargo on Japanese food imports.

Wang Hui-sheng is chief director of Kisai Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Japan.

Translated by Rita Wang

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