From The Yomiuri Shimbun, a propaganda mouthpiece close to the Japanese government.
Give new impetus to countries to lift import bans on Japanese seafood
An unfair import ban imposed in reaction to the nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture is unacceptable. Japan must make use of this clear judgment for countries to accelerate lifting such bans.
A World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel ruled that South Korea’s ban on fishery products imported from Japan amounts to “arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination” and violates WTO rules.
Citing the nuclear accident as a reason, South Korea has imposed a blanket import ban on fishery products from eight prefectures, including Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, since September 2013. For some of the import items, the ban has a serious impact on the fishery industries in areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear accident.
Japan filed complaints with the WTO in 2015, claiming Seoul’s ban was “not based on scientific grounds and hampered free trade.” It calls for the ban to be lifted on 28 kinds of fishery products, such as bonito and saury.
The WTO has sided with Japan because it did not get a satisfactory explanation from South Korea about why Seoul focused solely on fishery products imported from Japan.
Might Seoul have aimed to exclude Japanese fishery products that compete with those of South Korea? If so, such an attitude would run counter to the WTO’s principle of free trade and losing the case would be inevitable.
The South Korean government announced that it will appeal to a higher WTO panel, equivalent to a higher court. A situation should be avoided in which handing down the final decision is unnecessarily postponed.
Moves by S. Korea, China vital
It is reasonable that Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Ken Saito said, “[We] call for South Korea to sincerely and swiftly correct the violation of the [WTO] agreement.”
Japan exports products after subjecting them to an even stricter examination than is required by international standards on the influence of radioactive substances on foods.
The number of countries and regions that imposed import bans on Japanese foods after the nuclear accident was initially 54, but it declined by half to 27 as time went by.
In addition to South Korea, many of Japan’s main trading partners, including China, the United States and the European Union, still impose import restrictions on Japanese foods. Among other steps, they continue to ban importing some items or call for the presentation of certificates of inspection of Japanese foods.
In particular, China has taken the same level of strict restrictive measures as South Korea, and banned importing all foods from Tokyo and nine other prefectures.
The moves of China and South Korea seem to strongly influence other Asian countries and others that are still taking some kind of regulatory measures against Japanese foods.
In parallel with its efforts regarding South Korea, the Japanese government needs to make more efforts toward negotiations with China for lifting its import ban.
Although the government has set the goal of exporting ¥1 trillion worth of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products and other foods in 2019, such exports remain sluggish.
It has been pointed out that meat and fruit imported from Japan, which have become luxury brands, are sought after and praised by wealthy people abroad, yet there are few products for the most populous middle-income bracket of other countries.
There is no doubt that lifting the import bans of each country would also contribute to the improvement of the image of Japanese products overall.
Jiangsu Province in December 2016.
Families of 40 choir members cancel Tokyo trip after travel advisory from Chinese embassy
Parents of a children’s choir in southern China are seeking refunds for a trip to a singing competition in Japan that they cancelled over concerns of radiation leaks.
Their requests to refund the training, travel and accommodation fees, which add up to 19,800 yuan (US$2.900)for each child, have been denied by the singing training centre of the Guangzhou Opera House, with which the choir is affiliated, Television Southern of Guangdong reported.
The concerned parents said each family paid fees to the training centre in January for training, visas, insurance and accommodation for the trip to Japan for an international choir competition in August.
Forty students signed up for the trip, the report said.
Many parents became worried a month later when the Chinese embassy in Tokyo issued a reminder of record-high radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which has been leaking radioactivity since being badly damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
The embassy statement cited a spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing and urged Chinese tourists in Japan to make appropriate arrangements. The request for refunds was denied by the training centre, who insisted that parents would have to pay 20 per cent of costs, or about 4,000 yuan, to cancel the trip.
Many parents said that was unacceptable as health concerns should be of priority to the training centre as well as the families.
Some parents rallied in front of the training centre to raise attention to the issue, the report said.
The head of the choir said in a statement that the group was non-profit and he would personally ask for a full refund from the Opera House.
He said he had arranged a meeting to negotiate for the parents on Thursday.
Japan has become a popular travel destination for Chinese tourists in recent years after it eased visa rules for mainland tourists, who have flooded to their near neighbour where they spend up large on items that range from luxury watches to toilet seats.