National / Politics

Agriculture minister Takamori Yoshikawa calls on China and South Korea to lift food import bans

JIJI

Agriculture minister Takamori Yoshikawa on Sunday requested China and South Korea lift their import bans on food produced in Fukushima and some other prefectures.

Yoshikawa made the request to his Chinese counterpart, Han Changfu, and South Korean Agriculture Minister Lee Gae-ho at bilateral meetings in the city of Niigata.

Yoshikawa also confirmed cooperation with Beijing and Seoul in battling African swine fever, which is raging in China, during meetings held on the sidelines of the two-day gathering of the Group of 20 agriculture ministers from Saturday.

The two neighbors of Japan introduced the bans due to the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

China bans imports of food from 10 prefectures including Fukushima, Miyagi and Ibaraki, while South Korea’s ban covers fishery products from eight prefectures including Fukushima, Aomori and Iwate.

Yoshikawa and Han confirmed again that their countries will discuss an easing of the Chinese restriction based on scientific grounds.

Yoshikawa explained to Lee that ending the country’s ban will support the reconstruction of disaster-affected areas. However, it is unlikely any progress was made.

Japan filed a complaint against South Korea’s ban with the World Trade Organization. Last month, the WTO overturned its earlier ruling to effectively tolerate the ban.

The judgment has made it necessary for Japan to change its export strategy for food and agricultural, forestry and fishery products, as Tokyo aimed to use the earlier ruling as a lever to make other countries ease or remove import restrictions on such items.