TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Democratic Progressive Party government missed an opportunity to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Japan when it came to power in 2016 because it failed to resolve the issue of the ban on food imports from Japanese regions hit by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, a Japanese academic said Monday (May 20).
Tokyo University Professor Shin Kawashima was speaking about recent developments in Taiwan-Japan relations at a seminar hosted by the Foreign Press Center Japan, the Liberty Times reported.
The Fukushima disaster was followed by large-scale donations from Taiwan and by bilateral agreements, leading to new opportunities, according to Kawashima. However, when President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was elected in 2016, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hoped she would end the import ban on food from five prefectures affected by the nuclear disaster, the academic said. The ban was seen as going counter to Taiwan’s earlier generous offers of relief aid to the region, according to Kawashima.
By 2017, Abe was taking a positive stance toward China’s Belt and Road Initiative, therefore refraining from moving too close to Taiwan, and showing that the island had missed a chance to work toward an FTA, the scholar said.
Last November, a referendum to maintain the food import ban was approved, making further progress unlikely and provoking criticism from Japan’s Foreign Minister, Taro Kono.
Kawashima suggested Taiwan should go through the United States to press for Taiwan-Japan security talks, as Tokyo would be unlikely to refuse such a request coming from Washington.
He also saw new evidence of the Abe government showing goodwill toward Taiwan, in the form of Kono’s recent public support for the island’s bid to attend the World Health Assembly, the Liberty Times reported.