Posted October. 25, 2005 07:25,
It was confirmed on Monday that the Chinese Embassy in Korea had telephoned some Korean retailers in protest for withdrawing Chinese agricultural and marine products from their stores.
Now there are concerns that this could be a sign of Chinas move towards trade retaliation as the safety issue regarding food stuff from China spreads into a social issue in Korea.
According to the information this paper has gathered, the Chinese Embassy in Korea called the foods department of a large retailer on October 20 and expressed regret, saying, It is hard to understand why Chinese agricultural and maritime goods were withdrawn from your stores although they have not been verified to be harmful.
After malachite greens were found in Chinese eels, major retailers including department stores and discount chains pulled all Chinese eels from their stores in July, and they have now stopped selling Chinese sea breams, bass, and yellow croakers.
Sales of Chinese vegetables including fernbrakes and bean sprouts have also been suspended, and after lead was found in Chinese kimchi, Korean restaurants have stopped using them.
Against this background, the Chinese Embassy is believed to have made similar calls to other retailers as well.
In addition, Chinas General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine, which is in charge of customs clearance affairs, requested the Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) on October 14 to provide data on Korean deodorants which one civic group in Korea claimed to include ecological hormones. In response, the KFDA sent the requested data to China on October 20.
China rarely requests information on possible harmful effects of non-food products, which gives rise to the concern that China may be seeking trade retaliation on Korean skin products.
Regarding this, an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) said, Chinas Ministry of Commerce, which is in charge of trade affairs, has not yet taken an official stance on this issue. Now that China is a World Trade Organization member, it is unlikely that China would intentionally retaliate as it did in response to Koreas emergency import restriction on Chinese garlic in the past.
An official at the Chinese Embassy in Korea told this paper in a phone interview, I heard from a Chinese authority that even if [we] take measures, they will be at a reasonable level backed by sufficient grounds and study.
Meanwhile, the Chinese food stuff incident has prompted Korean and Chinese authorities to jump start the Korea-China Quality Inspection and Quarantine High-Level Consultative Body, which the two countries agreed upon during the summit in 2003.
Chinas General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine and Koreas MOFAT, KFDA, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries plan to participate in the body to discuss issues related to information exchanges on harmful substances and export companies, and announcements on inspection and quarantine.