New EC envoy targets air, beef issues

by Reiji Yoshida

Relations between European countries and Japan, once dominated by trade friction, have “immensely improved” and matured, but problems involving air services and beef imports still need to be resolved, the new European Commission ambassador said Wednesday.

Hugh Richardson, envoy for the European Union’s executive body, was a trade diplomat for the EC in Tokyo from 1984 to 1988 and served as deputy head of the delegation from 1986.

At his first news conference in Tokyo after presenting his credentials to Emperor Akihito, Richardson recalled his term here in the 1980s as an “exciting but difficult” period for a diplomat.

“Today, the (Japan-EU) relationship is much more broadly based,” he said.

On negotiations over air services, he said Tokyo should not discriminate between EU countries, arguing that treating all countries equally would benefit both the EU and Japan.

Richardson urged Japan to lift its ban on beef imports, claiming the crises over mad cow and foot-and-mouth diseases has ended and European beef is safe.