The Council of Agriculture (COA) recently strongly reiterated that it will follow President Ma Ying-jeou’s directives to maintain its ban on the importation of 830 Chinese agricultural products, even if Taiwan signs an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China.
The Council made the remarks in response to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party’s warning against a possible under-table agreement between Taiwan and China, after Chinese Premier Wen Jia-bao requested on April 18 at the BOAO Forum for Asia that Taiwan open up to the importation of Chinese goods.
The Council called on farmers to have confidence in the government and said it will not lift the existing restrictions on those 830 Chinese agricultural products.
President Ma Ying-jeou made it clear in an interview March 12 that the government will not add any new items to the list of Chinese agricultural products allowed into Taiwan, the Council noted.
To avoid a price competition in Taiwan that might result from the importation of Chinese agricultural goods -- given the fact that two places are geographically close and produce similar products and China has lower production costs -- the Council has maintained controls on 830 Chinese agricultural products before the president came to office May 20 last year, in line with one of his campaign promises.
In any future cross-strait talks on agricultural issues under the proposed ECFA, the Council will exclude the topic of lifting restrictions on the 830 listed control items, which include some products that are subject to tariff rate quotas, like rice, peanuts, mushrooms, and garlic, as well as fresh and processed products like tea, cabbages, potatoes, onions, small abalone, oysters, and flowers.
The Council will set up a mechanism for negotiations with China on issues related to agricultural product inspection standards, agricultural intellectual property rights protection, as well as farm product brand protection, with the aim of improving the performance of Taiwan’s agricultural exports to mainland China.
The COA said it will continue to work on agricultural industry development and price stabilization, as well as the improvement of international markets strategies to expand international trade for Taiwan-produced food and its safe agricultural products to ensure better prices and profits for the country’s farmers.
Additionally, in protecting the safety production of local fish farmers, the Council will not lift the restrictions on any of the 69 listed aquaculture products, such as oysters, tilapia, eels, small abalone, and mackerel, which are sensitive fishery products and are produced in large quantities in Taiwan.
Regarding the public’s concerns that opening to the importation of Chinese aquatic products may bring aquatic diseases to Taiwan’s fish farming industry, the Council called on fish farmers to have confidence in its solid stance to retain controls on the listed Chinese fishery products.
The Council added that the government currently already has a strict inspection system for imported aquatic products.
Ever since the event of a virus infection on domestic abalone farms in 2001 due to the smuggling of small abalone (Haliotis diversicolor) seedlings from China, the COA has worked closely with the Coast Guard Administration to crack down more heavily on smugglers of unsafe agricultural products and to protect the rights of the local people.
The Council called on the public to cooperate with the government in developing Taiwan’s agriculture and not to buy illegal seedlings from dubious sources.