China Has Banned Taiwan's Pineapples. Taiwan Says It's Not Fair Play

Ceng Shou Yi | NurPhoto | Getty Images
  • China's sudden ban on Taiwanese pineapples does not meet the standards of international trade rules, Wang Mei-Hua, Taiwan's minister of economic affairs told CNBC this week.
  • Beijing on Friday announced that it would temporarily stop imports of the tropical fruit from the island from March 1.
  • Taiwan sees the ban as a political move, but China says it made the decision for biosecurity reasons.

China's sudden ban on Taiwanese pineapples fails to meet the standards of international trade rules, Taiwan's minister of economic affairs Wang Mei-Hua told CNBC.

Beijing on Friday announced that it would temporarily stop imports of the tropical fruit from the island from March 1, according to Reuters.

Chinese state media Xinhua reported that the ban was put in place because Chinese customs officials found pests in pineapples imported from Taiwan.

A spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council — an administrative agency under China — said the pests posed a serious threat to China's agriculture and ecological security if not intercepted, according to Xinhua.

Separately, Beijing has defended the move and maintained that the ban on pineapples is reasonable and necessary for biosecurity reasons, Xinhua reported.

Most of Taiwan's pineapples are consumed domestically, according to Reuters. However, of those exported, 90% of them were sold to China last year.

"All of a sudden, China notified us about the pineapple pests and immediately banned imports of our products. We believe that it does not comply with international trade rules," Wang told CNBC's Emily Tan on Wednesday.

"But we will try our best to reflect and discuss with China on this issue. Meanwhile, we will try to diversify and sell our great products to other markets beyond China," she said, according to a translation of her comments in Mandarin.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has rallied support for local pineapple farmers on Facebook, and encouraged people to eat more of the fruit.

The island's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said China is using the ban to put economic pressure on Taiwan, Reuters reported. The Chinese Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan, but sees the self-governing island as a renegade province.

"This is not the first time China has used agricultural exports to other countries as political threats," the DPP said in a statement, Reuters reported.

U.S., Canada support

Diplomats from the U.S. and Canada have also shown support for Taiwan and its pineapples. The two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations with the island, but enjoy close ties.

Canada's trade office in Taipei posted a photo on its Facebook account of its staff posing with pineapples and pizza. The post included the hashtag #FreedomPineapples.

Separately, the American Institute in Taiwan used the hashtag #pineapplesolidarity and shared pictures of the tropical fruit in offices and bookshelves. It has also posted recipes that use pineapples.

Last week, a bill introduced in the House of Representatives called for the U.S. to resume diplomatic ties with Taiwan, negotiate a free trade agreement (FTA) and support the island's membership in international organizations.

Wang, Taiwan's minister of economic affairs, said Washington and Taipei have "long-standing" relations both economically and strategically. They also have strong cooperation in the semiconductor industry, she said.

"If, in the future, we could have an FTA, we would definitely welcome and pursue it because it would further strengthen our economic ties," she added.

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