In a bid to avert a possible legal battle with the European Union at the World Trade Organization over fish imports, Japan has informally proposed granting the 15-nation union a special import quota for certain fish like mackerel and horse mackerel, government sources said Feb. 21.

The sources said the compromise proposal was presented recently by the Fisheries Agency, an organization affiliated with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, to the EU, which is becoming increasingly disgruntled with Japan’s long-standing imposition of import quotas for eight categories of marine products.

Japan imposes two import quotas — one for squid and another for seven categories of fish products, including mackerel and horse mackerel — on about 100 countries that export such marine products to protect the weak domestic industry from foreign competition. The import quota for mackerel, horse mackerel and five other categories of fish products is set at $322 million per year. Outside the two import quotas, South Korean exporters are granted a special import quota of $40 million per year.

It was not immediately known whether Japan has offered a specific figure on the proposed import quota for the EU. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, informed Japan informally earlier this year that the commission had already obtained approval from the 15 union nations for its plan to file a complaint with the WTO over Japan’s import restrictions on the fish products, the sources said.

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