By Emma Farge
GENEVA – Taiwan raised a trade complaint against China at a World Trade Organization meeting over Beijing’s moves to block imports of two types of fruit from the island, its council of agriculture and two other sources said.
Taiwan, whose relations with China are at their lowest in decades, had previously threatened to raise the matter at the global trade watchdog.
The fruits in question are sugar apples, also known as sweetsops or custard apples, and wax apples, both Taiwan specialities which do not really resemble apples.
Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture said in a statement on Thursday that its WTO delegation has raised “specific trade concerns” on the issue against China at the WTO committee that oversees compliance with sanitary and phytosanitary measures.
The statement said that China had not responded to its request for bilateral talks on the issue and dialogue at the meeting, but that Taiwan would continue its efforts.
Taiwan has effective controls over its exports and it was unnecessary to halt clearance of the fruit, it said, adding: “China should immediately lift relevant imports controls.”
China’s customs administration stopped clearance of the fruit in September, citing pest concerns. The move comes as Beijing uses increasing political and military pressure to get the democratically ruled island to accept its sovereignty.
China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its “sacred territory” and has not ruled out the use force to ensure eventual unification.
The specific trade concern filed by Taiwan at the WTO’s committee is a preliminary step, although a portion of such complaints later become formal WTO disputes.
At the closed-door meeting, Taiwan said that the typical procedure in the event of pests is to fumigate and quarantine instead of suspending all products because a tiny fraction is infected, said the second source.
China’s delegate responded that it had frequently found pests on fruit from its neighbour and said this poses a threat to its agriculture, the source added.
Taiwan, formally known as the “Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu” at the World Trade Organization, is blocked from participating in many international bodies because of Chinese objections.
A WTO spokesperson did not immediately reply to an email request for a comment on the matter.
China’s Ministry of Commerce also did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Emma Farge in Geneva and by Yi-Mou Lee in Taipei; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Nick Macfie)