Taiwan's FM condemns 'hostile' fruit import ban from China

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FILE - In this file photo taken Friday, April 15, 2005, a woman picks "lien wu" or wax apple, a Taiwanese tropical fruit, at a local fruit market in Taipei, Taiwan. China announced Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 that it would suspend the imports of sugar apples and wax apples from Taiwan over pest concerns, months after a similar pineapple import ban was imposed. (AP Photo/Jerome Favre, File)

BEIJING (AP) — Taiwan's foreign minister said Sunday that a new tropical fruit import ban by China was a “hostile move”, amid souring relations between the two governments.

Chinese customs authorities announced earlier Saturday that they would stop the import of custard and wax apples from Taiwan, citing pest concerns.

“Following a series of military threats, the #PRC is weaponizing trade by announcing an immediate ban on #Taiwan’s custard & wax apples,” Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu said on Twitter, referring to the mainland People's Republic of China by its common acronym.

He added that the trade ban was a “hostile move” that violates international trade norms.

China has recently hardened its stance toward Taiwan, which it views as a renegade province that should be united with the mainland.

The Chinese General Administration of Customs said in its statement that it detected pests called Planococcus minor — commonly known as the citrus mealybug — in imports of Taiwanese custard and wax apples.

The statement said that suspending the import of the two fruits was “to prevent the risk of plant epidemics.”

The mealybugs tend to feed on a wide variety of agricultural crops and may affect yield and fruit quality.

In a news conference Sunday, Taiwan’s agriculture minister Chen Chi-chung said that Taiwanese authorities have urged Beijing to provide scientific evidence for its ban.

“We cannot accept this,” said Chen.

If China does not respond to Taiwan’s request for a resolution under the current bilateral framework by Sept. 30, Taiwan will take the issue to the World Trade Organization for dispute resolution, Chen said.

China is the largest importer of Taiwan’s agricultural products, and imported over $1 billion worth of agricultural goods last year, according to government data.

China in February banned imports of pineapples from Taiwan over similar concerns, and Taiwan at the time also protested what it said was a violation of global trade rules. Since the ban, Taiwan’s pineapple exports to Japan have surged more than eightfold.

Chinese relations with Taiwan have soured since the election of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who is from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party which advocates Taiwan’s formal independence.

Beijing has cut ties with Tsai’s government over her refusal to accept its demand that she recognize the island as a part of China to be unified with it eventually under the “one country, two systems” policy enacted in Hong Kong.

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