Taiwan to raise trade concerns with WTO over China import suspension

The Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture (COA) on Friday sent documents to Taiwan's World Trade Organization (WTO) mission as it prepares to file "specific trade concerns" in November over China's move to suspend imports of wax apples and custard apples from Taiwan.

COA chief Chen Chi-chung (???) told the press that as of Thursday, China had failed to provide Taiwan with an official explanation for the import suspension; as a result, Taiwan will submit its concerns to the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Committee (SPS Committee) under the WTO.

The WTO committee oversee the implementation of the "Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures," also known as the SPS agreement, and provides a forum for discussion on animal and plant health and food safety measures affecting trade.

On Sept. 19, the Department of Animal and Plant Quarantine under China's General Administration of Customs issued a notice announcing a suspension on the import of Taiwanese wax apples and custard apples after discovering mealybug Planococcus minor in several shipments from Taiwan this year.

The suspension took effect on Sept. 20, one day after the notice was issued.

Following the suspension of pineapple imports at the end of February, the unexpected move marked the second time this year China has suspended imports of fruit from Taiwan for mealybugs.

In response, the COA dismissed the accusations and asked China to further explain its unilateral decision by the end of September.

At that time, the council also noted that if China failed to provide an acceptable response, Taiwan would file a dispute settlement case with the WTO in accordance with relevant regulations.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian (???) said on Wednesday that Beijing had discovered gray pineapple mealybugs alongside the previously stated Planococcus minor, as well as the presence of germs that infect the galls of cocoa flowers, on wax apples and custard apples from Taiwan.

In response, Chen said Thursday that China provided Taiwan with only one sheet of A4 listing the number and date of items that failed the inspection. No photo evidence or scientific proof was included, he argued, urging China to provide scientific evidence supporting its claims.

The agriculture minister said multiple measures have been taken to fix the bug problem since last year and the COA informed the Chinese authorities of the improvement measures in September.

However, China still moved to suspend the import of wax apples and custard apples from Taiwan unilaterally, Chen said, expressing hope that the trade dispute can be settled through the cross-strait quarantine mechanism before the SPA Committee's upcoming regular meeting.

According to the COA, if the dispute is not settled before the end of October, Taiwan's permanent mission to the WTO will raise its trade concerns at the SPS Committee meeting scheduled for Nov. 3-5.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel