The moves comes amid concerns in Taiwan that the ban might jeopardise Taiwan’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
"It's time to reassess Taiwan's policy on Japanese food imports and the government might follow the United States and adopt risk-based restrictions instead of the current ban that is based on regions," said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung.
The CPTPP, also known as the TPP11, is a planned trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, based on re-negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which the US had pulled out of.
Since 2011, following the disaster, food imports to Taiwan from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba have been suspended.
A few months ago, the Taipei branch of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) had asked Taiwan to ease the ban. JCCI Taipei chairman Takeshi Yagi said that he hoped the ban could be eased in phases.
In late November, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe further pressed the issue to the region when he addressed the other Asean Plus Three countries — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and China and Korea — saying that sufficient time had passed since the disaster, and urged these nations to resume food and agricultural imports from Japan.
“I strongly requested that import controls on Japanese food to be lifted, based on scientific grounds,” he said.
Nonetheless, with continued resistance and concerns from various parties including the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party, the ban has yet to be lifted.
Those who are against the move question the ability of the authorities to ensure food safety in terms of contaminated imports. However, it has been revealed that contaminated food products from these regions have slipped through into the market.
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Chen said that Taiwan would never allow the importing of Japanese food products contaminated with radiation and that the government would "make appropriate adjustments" for non-contaminated food, in accordance with international guidelines.
He advocated the lifting of the ban, albeit with great care and in stages, pointing out that the European Union had already decided to lift restrictions on imports of certain Japanese food imposed after the disaster.
"It is time to re-examine the policy," Chen said.
He added that the Taiwan government might follow the precedence set by the US, to adopt risk-based restrictions instead of the region-based ban.
Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Ho Chi-kung added, “It is not good to maintain the ban for so many years, when countries around the world are gradually relaxing their restrictions on Japanese food products."
In its efforts to lift the ban, Japan has gone so far as to serve visiting International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics food from the affected prefectures, showing that the produce is safe for consumption and of good quality.