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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Taiwan Tells Japan To Go Fact Check Itself

Taiwan has accused Japan of shipping food products from the five Japanese prefectures affected by the near-meltdown of the Dai-Ichi nuclear reactor between March 2011 and probably now… who knows…

The five prefectures are: Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Chiba, and Tochigi, my old home area… and Taiwan has banned food from these places from entering its country.

It was discovered this past March 2015, that packaged food items from these five prefectures had illegally entered Taiwan, and that their labels had been tampered with.

While this could still be a case where each side claims the other tampered with the labels, Japan needs to take it down a notch.

Hayashi Yoshimasa (surname first), Japan's minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries said that Japan doesn't agrees with the accusations it was tampering with labels to ship these products, and said Japan might take the case to the WTO (World Trade Organization), an international global concern that deals with trade rules between countries.

Association of East Asian Relations chairman Lee Chia-chin (surname first) retorted that Japan should check its own damn labels first before offing shipping glowing foods to the best country in the world - Taiwan.

He didn't say it using those words, but you know he wanted to. Still… the meaning was implied.

"Taiwan cannot accept this (false labeling) and thinks Japan should get to the bottom of the matter," Lee said for realizes.

Pissing Off Taiwan
Because Japan has essentially farted in the general direction of Taiwan by not accepting its suggestion to investigate possible labeling tampering with Japanese borders, the Taiwanese Legislature says that any Japanese foods entering Taiwan now have 'official certification'.

Taiwan isn't saying it doesn't want Japanese foods, only that it doesn't want them from those five areas, fearing - regardless if it is irrational fear - that the products could be contaminated by nuclear radiation from materials released into the air, water or ground after a 9.0 Magnitude earthquake caused a massive tsunami to knock out the power and safety features around the Fukushima-ken nuclear power electricity generating facility.

While Taiwan's concerns could be construed as viable, is there tangible evidence that the food materials actually present any sort of public health danger? No.

However, it is Taiwan's right to not accept food imports from whatever area or country it has issues with.

Even after the March 11, 2011 disasters, Taiwan was still willing to deal with Japan… but now, thanks to now-typical Japanese stubbornness to admit there might be a real problem within its own borders, Taiwan is now seeking certification for ALL Japanese food imports. .. basically telling Japan it needs to prove that (for example) foods it says are grown in Hokkaido are not actually grown or handled in Ibaraki.

Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou (surname first), when talking to visiting Japanese lawmakers, said that this whole matter of false labeling should be probed, and that control measures should be reviewed to prevent such an incidence from happening again.

See? Ma is implying that he knows Japan has safety features in place… only that since a mislabeling occurred, perhaps Japan needs to find out where and why such an occurrence could occur and eliminate it.

Ma says that if Japan does that, then it will be able to ask Taiwan to lift its stricter regulations.

Oh Baby! More Paperwork!
These new regulations take effect on May 15, 2015, and it means that any importer of Japanese food products must present a certificate of origin to prove anything within said food product does not come from one of the five 'banned' Japanese prefectures.

For products like baby food, tea, dairy and water-based products - regardless of where in Japan it is from, a radiation inspection certificate is required… again also to ensure it's not from the glowing five provinces.

(They aren't really glowing! I was just being facetious!)

Lee acknowledges that Taiwan is a huge consumer of Japanese agri-products, "After Japan has fully investigated the false labeling, it will certainly lessen the pressure to impose stricter regulations."

Lee said he would advise Japan not to threaten to take the case to the WTO, noting that even now Taiwan-Japan relations are friendly, and "we can talk about everything, but taking the case to the WTO could sour bilateral ties."

Japan… while no one is blaming the earthquake and tsunami on you, certainly the lackadaisical fail-safes on the Dai-ichi nuclear facility and the way everyone reacted to the nuclear emergency is… troubling… if you want to continue to do business with Taiwan, you need to maintain or rebuild the neighborly fences.

Suck it up. Do the right thing. Even if it's a stupid over-reaction. Someone in Japan screwed up. Resolve the problem, get the certification and sell your products and keep your trade partners happy.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image from Taoyuan city government, Taiwan, and found at Health officials in Taoyuan check a warehouse for Japanese food products manufactured in areas affected by the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant, March 28, 2015.

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