Taiwan seeking Japan’s official stance on CPTPP bid: foreign minister

In this March 8, 2018 file photo, from left, Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang, New Zealand Trade Minister David Parker, General Secretary Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia Y.bhg. Datuk J. Jayasiri, Canada's Minister of International Trade Francois-Philippe Champagne, Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Steven Ciobo, Chile's Foreing Minister Heraldo Munoz, Brunei's Foreign Minister Haji Erawan bin Pehin Yusof, Japan's Trans-Pacific Partnership minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Secretary of Economy of Mexico Idelfonso Guajardo, Peru's Trade Minister Eduardo Ferreyros and Vietnamese Trade Minister Tran Tuan Anh, poses for a pictures after the signing ceremony of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, CP TPP, in Santiago, Chile. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)

TAIPEI (CNA) – The Japanese government has not yet responded to a request to clearly indicate whether it will support Taiwan’s efforts to join a Japan-led international economic bloc, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said Monday.

At a legislative hearing, Wu noted that the controversy over Taiwan’s efforts to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP) arose after Taiwanese voted in favor of a referendum last month to maintain a ban on certain Japanese food imports.

After the referendum, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed disappointment at the results and said his government would consider filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the ban, which has been in place since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in Japan in March 2011.

Kono also said a decision to maintain the ban might hamper Taiwan’s efforts to gain membership in the CPTPP, which is led by Japan and is due to take effect on Dec. 30.

Asked by legislators whether Kono’s comments meant Taiwan has little chance of joining the second wave of applications for the CPTPP next year, Wu said his ministry is still trying to confirm the Japanese government’s stance on the issue.

Wu said Taiwan has obtained information through other channels that the food product ban will not affect its chances of joining the CPTTP, but Kono has not openly said that.

The Taiwan foreign ministry, therefore, has asked the Japanese government to clearly state its position on the issue and is now awaiting a response, which is expected in a day or two, Wu said.

On Nov. 24, Taiwanese voted by a 78-22 percent margin to maintain the current ban on imports of agricultural products and food from areas in Japan affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in March 2011. The referendum was initiated by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and voted on by some 10 million citizens.

It has cast a shadow, however, over Taiwan’s bid to enter the CPTTP, which currently comprises 11 economies – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam – and represents around 16 percent of global economic output and some 500 million people. Applications for new members are expected to begin next year.

By Joseph Yeh