China lifts ban on Taiwanese grouper fish imports in carrot and stick diplomacy

BEIJING (Reuters) – China will resume importing grouper fish from Taiwan from Friday, the Chinese government announced, just one day after angering Taipei with the ending of tariff cuts on some chemical imports less than a month before Taiwanese elections.

China put the grouper ban in place in June of last year saying it had detected banned chemicals, an accusation Taiwan denied, as part of a broader ban on Taiwanese food imports that infuriated the government of the Chinese-claimed island.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said Taiwanese industry representatives had visited China and provided “rectification” information, so now approved companies can resume grouper exports.

“We are willing to work together with relevant parties on the island to continue to provide assistance for the resumption of the import of Taiwan’s agricultural and fishing products into the mainland,” it said in a statement carried by China’s official Xinhua news agency.

China has already eased some import bans on Taiwanese pineapples, sugar apples and wax apples, which it put in place citing concerns about pests.

On Thursday, Taiwan accused China of economic coercion and election interference after Beijing announced the end of tariff cuts on some chemical imports from the island, saying Taipei violated a trade agreement.

Taiwan’s Jan. 13 presidential and parliamentary elections are taking place as China has sought to force Taiwan to accept Chinese sovereignty claims.

Taiwan’s government and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have repeatedly said China is trying to interfere in the vote, whether by military means or with economic pressure, to ensure an outcome favourable to Beijing.

(Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Edmund Klamann and Michael Perry)