Japan, China and South Korea have agreed to boost cooperation in ensuring a stable food supply after holding their first meeting of farm ministers in more than three years.
In a joint statement adopted during the two-day meeting in Tokyo that wrapped up Sunday, the three net importers of food items said: “We shared the view that sustainably increasing domestic production capacity is very important for our food security.”
Touching on stalled negotiations on a trilateral free trade agreement in the farm sector, the three ministers said it is “indispensable for our agricultural development to accelerate” the FTA talks while “considering various concerns and interests of each country.”
The meeting represented a resumption of ministerial dialogue on agriculture that had been suspended since April 2012 amid disputes over historical and territorial disputes.
To flesh out the measures stipulated in the joint statement, the three countries will launch a senior officials’ meeting. They also agreed to hold the next three-way farm ministerial meeting in China.
According to the statement and a memorandum of cooperation signed by the three countries to respond to transboundary animal diseases, they agreed to work together to counter infectious diseases affecting livestock via such steps as joint research on migratory birds and movements of people to better pin down infection routes.
In recent years, a series of bird flu and foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks have roiled Asia.
Agriculture minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the meeting was able to produce “major results,” pointing to the memorandum on animal disease response and the establishment of a working-level meeting.
His South Korean counterpart, Lee Dong-phil, said the trilateral cooperation has become more concrete than the first meeting in April 2012, while Chinese Vice Farm Minister Chen Xiaohua said convening the meeting itself was “extremely significant.”
In bilateral sessions held on the meeting’s sidelines, Japan urged the other two countries to lift bans on imports of Japanese agricultural and marine products stemming from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis. Japanese officials said there was no progress on this front.