Business

EU to ease post-Fukushima restrictions on Japanese food imports possibly by yearend

Kyodo, Reuters

The European Union will ease its restrictions on Japanese food imports imposed following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, possibly by the end of this year, government officials said Saturday.

Specifically, the European Union is planning to remove its import restrictions on fishery products from Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, no longer requiring radiation inspection certificates for them, the officials said.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker informed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of the plan when they held talks in Brussels on Sept. 27, according to the Japanese officials.

Japan has been trying to persuade the 28-member bloc and countries including China, South Korea and the United States that have continued to restrict imports of food products from Fukushima and adjacent prefectures that they have been scientifically proven to be safe.

In 2017 the EU lifted a ban on rice produced in Fukushima Prefecture.

As of September, 22 countries and regions had not removed import restrictions on some Japanese agricultural and fishery products imposed in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, according to the agriculture ministry in Tokyo.

The number was down from 54 countries and regions immediately after the disaster.

In April, South Korea won the bulk of an appeal in its dispute at the World Trade Organization over the import bans and testing requirements for food products from Fukushima and surrounding areas.

Last year a WTO dispute panel supported Japan, saying South Korea was wrong to keep its initial trade restrictions in place. But April’s ruling overturned several key points of that verdict, saying South Korea’s measures were not overly restrictive and did not unfairly discriminate against Japan.

The appeal looked solely at the panel’s interpretation of the WTO rules, without going into the facts about the levels of contaminants in Japanese food products or what the right level of consumer protection should be.

Japan launched its trade complaint at the WTO in 2015, arguing that radioactive levels were safe and that a number of other nations, including the United States and Australia, had lifted or eased Fukushima-related restrictions.