Trans-Strait fears quashed, though talks stall over agriculture

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags Food safety International trade

Speeding up the customs clearance process for trade between Taiwan and China would not compromise the island’s stringent food safety requirements, though it would succeed in making Taiwanese exports more competitive, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) has claimed. 

The two countries have been negotiating a new trade agreement whereby the customs reporting process could be reduced to 48 hours, addressing concerns by Taiwanese exporters that current system is not transparent and is prone to delays.

Yet following the latest round of cross-strait trade talks, some business leaders have voiced fears that a new, expedited procedure could undercut the quality of food imports from mainland China. 

The MOEA has stressed that a 48-hour principle would not apply to products that require close-up examination by the relevant authorities, and that all food imports would still be regulated by Taiwan’s food safety act, along with existing inspection regulations. Agricultural quarantines would also apply, it said.

Taiwan firms would be able to lower their transaction costs through a faster customs process, and this in turn would make their products more competitive on the Chinese market, the ministry added.

It appears that the negotiations had been making increased headway after the leaders of the two countries met recently in Singapore. However the talks stalled earlier this week after a three-day meeting between senior officials, during which Taiwan turned down China's request for it to lift import bans on Chinese farm produce.

Taiwan currently bans imports of 615 agricultural products from China, while the Chinese government gives preferential treatment to all Taiwanese farm produce exported to the mainland. Seeing this as unfair, Beijing has urged its Taipei counterparts to address this disparity.

"We told the other side that we will continue import controls on any products that may affect farmers' livelihood or invoke food safety concerns​," said Hsiao Tung-chiung, deputy director of the Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture.

The two countries are now planning to hold a new round of talks on the trade pact in December in an attempt to narrow their differences.

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