TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s government threatened to take Beijing to the World Trade Organization on Saturday after China suspended the import of grouper fish from the island saying it had detected banned chemicals, the latest agricultural spat between the two.
Last year China suspended imports of pineapples, sugar apples and wax apples from Taiwan, citing concerns about pests, which Taiwan strongly denied.
Relations between Taipei and Beijing, which claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, are at their lowest in decades, with China increasing political and military pressure to get the island to accept its sovereignty.
China’s customs administration said late Friday it had repeatedly detected banned chemicals in grouper from Taiwan and would suspend their import from Monday “in order to prevent risks and protect the health and lives of consumers”.
Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung dismissed the accusation, saying there was nothing wrong with the fish and they would provide data to China and request a response from them.
If China does not respond then Taiwan won’t rule out taking the issue to the WTO, he told reporters.
Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng said that China has been repeatedly boycotting and blocking Taiwanese agricultural and aquatic products “in a manner inconsistent with international practices”.
This not only harms relations between Taiwan and China “but also makes the Taiwanese people even more disgusted by the Chinese Communist Party authorities’ wanton suppression of Taiwan”.
While most Taiwanese grouper is consumed at home, China accounts for some 90% of the exported product.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)