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September 23, 2017

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Japan and Taiwan ink 2 MOUs at talks

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan and Japan on Wednesday signed two memorandums of understanding (MOUs) on language exchange and product safety cooperation, as annual trade and economic talks between the two countries concluded in Taipei.

The two MOUs were signed by Japan Interchange Association (JIA) Chairman Mitsuo Ohashi and his Taiwanese counterpart Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), chairman of the Association of East Asian Relations (AEAR, 亞東關係協會), at the conclusion of the annual Taiwan-Japan Trade and Economic Meeting.

The two groups are quasi-official organizations set up by their respective governments to handle bilateral affairs in the absence of official ties.

According to the Education Ministry, the MOU on language exchange is targeted at high school students from Taiwan and Japan, allowing them to visit each other's countries on language exchange and study trips.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs said the MOU on enhancing product safety will better protect consumers, allowing both parties to share technologies and to prevent the export of potentially harmful products.

Despite the signing of the two deals, the one-and-a-half-day meeting was largely overshadowed by the Japanese side's call for Taiwan to lift its import restrictions on products from Japan's nuclear-affected areas as soon as possible.

During his opening remarks on Tuesday, Ohashi called on Taiwan to lift its ongoing ban on some Japanese food products despite Foreign Minister David Lee's (李大維) pledge Monday that the issue would not make it onto the agenda of the annual meeting.

Japanese Food Import Issue

Asked to comment on the issue, Tsai Wei-kan (蔡偉淦) deputy secretary-general of AEAR, told reporters during a post-meeting press conference on Wednesday that the Japanese delegation did bring up the issue again at the meeting.

The Japanese side said it was aware that Taiwan's government had sent a delegation to Japan this August to study the Japanese government's safety measures regarding food products from nuclear-affected prefectures.

Taiwan is currently holding public hearings over whether to lift the ban, Tsai said.

According to Tsai, the Taiwanese delegation said the issue remains controversial in Taiwan, and the local government needs more time to discuss the matter.

Taiwan's deligation also reiterated Minister Lee's statement that the issue would not be touched on during the meeting, he added.

The government had imposed a ban on the import of food produced in the five nuclear-affected prefectures of Japan — Gunma, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Chiba — following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.

It further tightened restrictions when products from these prefectures were discovered on shelves in Taiwan last year, drawing strong criticism from the Japanese government.

Since the Democratic Progressive Party, which is widely regarded as friendly toward Japan, regained power in May, many have speculated that the new administration could soon lift the ban.

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