Japan's Foreign Ministry seeks to double WTO budget after defeat in Fukushima food ban case

Kyodo, JIJI

The Foreign Ministry hopes to more than double its budget for activities related to the World Trade Organization in fiscal 2020 after losing a dispute over a South Korean ban on imports of Japanese seafood.

The ministry is requesting ¥250 million ($2.3 million) as it looks to increase personnel and travel for WTO meetings, up from the ¥120 million for fiscal 2019. Friday was the deadline for filing budget requests for the next fiscal year.

In April, the WTO’s top judicial body ruled that South Korea could uphold a ban on Japanese seafood imposed in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster amid concern over radioactive contamination.

An earlier ruling had been in favor of Japan’s claim that the ban should be lifted because it is not supported by scientific evidence.

Overall, the Foreign Ministry’s budget request for fiscal 2020 came to ¥793.7 billion, up 8.6 percent from its initial budget for fiscal 2019.

The total figure includes ¥505.1 billion for official development assistance, or loans and grants to help the economic and social advancement of developing countries.

The ministry also asked for ¥1.05 billion to charter flights for the foreign minister’s trips overseas, a budgetary request that’s equal to about 500 hours of flight time. The amount more than doubles the ¥420 million requested for fiscal 2019.

Meanwhile, the agriculture ministry has sought ¥24.8 billion for boosting exports of agricultural and food products in the next budget, roughly quadruple the figure in the current budget.

The funds will be used for establishing a new organization that will function as a command center for the strategic promotion of exports, as well as for activities to promote Japanese food overseas.

The agriculture ministry’s budget request sought a total of ¥2.73 trillion, up 18.2 percent. This includes ¥843.6 billion in funding for public works projects, up 21.1 percent.

The ministry requested that ¥5.1 billion be earmarked for advancing “smart agriculture,” or the use of robotics technology and artificial intelligence. The figure was about 10 times that of the fiscal 2019 budget.

Additionally, ¥87.8 billion, or roughly five times the previous year’s budget, was sought for measures to stabilize the fisheries business to deal with poor catches of fish such as saury and stricter regulations on resource management.

The ministry also asked for ¥5.1 billion for commercial whaling, which resumed in July after a 31-year hiatus. The figure is unchanged from the fiscal 2019 budget for research whaling.