WTO rules in favor of Japan on South Korea’s post-Fukushima seafood ban

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The World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled in favor of Japan, in a dispute about South Korea’s ban on imports of Japanese seafood, reports KBS World Radio.
 
The WTO reaffirmed the ruling in a report in February, four months after it made the decision last October. In response, the Korean government filed an appeal against the ruling by the Geneva-based organization on April 9.
 
The dispute dates back to 2011, when Japan was hit by a massive earthquake and suffered a nuclear power plant meltdown in Fukushima. Amid fears of radioactive leaks from quake-hit Japan, South Korea prohibited imports of agro-fishery products from Fukushima.
 
In 2013, the ban was expanded to include 28 fishery products from eight Japanese prefectures near Fukushima. Japan took the case to the WTO in protest. The WTO ruled in favor of Japan in its first hearing, saying that South Korea’s measures lacked transparency. In turn, Korea’s trade ministry has filed an appeal against the ruling.
 
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Korea Appeals World Trade Organization Ruling on Imports from Fukushima

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Korea Appeals WTO Ruling on Imports from Fukushima
April 10, 2018
The government has appealed a World Trade Organization ruling that accused Korea of violating trade regulations by banning imports of seafood from Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture, which was the site of a massive nuclear power plant meltdown in 2011.
“The nuclear fallout persists in Japan, and the ruling is problematic since it’s our job to make sure the food Koreans eat is safe,” a government spokesman said Monday.
In February of this year, the WTO ruled in favor of Japan, which has demanded Korea lift the ban.
Korea banned imports from the region in 2011, just after a massive earthquake there resulted in the nuclear meltdown. Japan sued Korea at the WTO in 2015.
South Korea appeals WTO ruling against import ban on Japanese seafood
South Korea has appealed a World Trade Organization ruling against its restrictions on the import of seafood from eight Japanese prefectures following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The government had earlier vowed to fight the ruling to safeguard public health and safety while keeping the ban in place. Seoul announced its appeal on Monday.
 
In the ruling, announced Feb. 22, the WTO’s dispute settlement panel said the ban was inconsistent with the global trade body’s rules against “arbitrarily or unjustifiably” discriminating against another country, recommending that South Korea take corrective action.
The panel also said a South Korean requirement that Japanese exporters of all marine products submit certificates of inspection if small amounts of radioactive cesium or iodine are detected is an effective barrier to fair trade.
The decision came more than two years after Japan filed a complaint in 2015 over the South Korean ban, claiming it was not based on scientific grounds.
In Tokyo, fisheries minister Ken Saito expressed regret on Tuesday over South Korea’s appeal, telling a news conference it was “extremely regrettable.”
He also said Japan will properly address the matter so that its claims will be accepted by the WTO’s appellate body. In addition, Tokyo will urge Seoul to swiftly lift the ban, Saito said.
Following the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, South Korea initially imposed a partial ban on imports of marine products from the eight prefectures due to fears of radioactive contamination.
In September 2013, Seoul expanded the restrictions to bar all fishery products from the eight prefectures and strengthened import regulations.
The eight prefectures are Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba.

Fukushima export ban maintained by Hong Kong

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April 10, 2018
Seven years after a tsunami wiped out the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, causing widespread radiation contamination in a largely agricultural region, the Fukushima prefecture continues to struggle in getting crucial overseas markets to accept its produce.
This is despite a charm offensive that saw japanese foreign minister Taro Kono visiting Hong-Kong last weekend for the first time in 21 years to lobby chief executive Carrie Lam to lift a ban on imports from Fukushima and its surrounding region.
Hong-Kong which accounts for a quarter of Japan’s food export trade, is among the 55 countries that have blocked shipments from Fukushima since the 2011 disaster.
Facing resistance
The trip did not go the way Tokyo planned, with Lam expressing her reluctance to reopen trade.
“She emphasized that it is incumbent upon the government to safeguard public health and hence effective measures must be in place to ensure food safety and to maintain public confidence,” a statement issued by Lam’s office read.
The visit came shortly after South Korea announced it would maintain a blanket ban on imports from north-eastern Japan, even though the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled this as “arbitrary and unjustifiable” discriminatory measures.
Korea’s trade ministry stated in March that it would appeal the WTO decision, which is equivalent to a court ruling.
“Despite this ruling, the current import ban will remain in force, and the government will make its utmost efforts to ensure radiation-contaminated food does not reach the dinner table,” it said in a strongly-worded statement, ahead of a likely appeal.
Radiation safe?
Meanwhile a Fukushima flatfish festival in Bangkok was forced to cancel amid pressure from consumer goods watchdogs over radioactive contamination.
According to japanese officials, food from the affected area is safe, with no radiation having been detected in rice since 2015. In January, a safety panel announced that contamination inspections would be phased out in favor of random spot checks, to bring rice in line with the current procedure for fruits and vegetables.
This position is backed up by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, whose director-general publicly ate sweets made from pears and apples grown in Fukushima at an event in Tokyo last May to publicize the safety of produce in the affected area.
“We don’t see any reason to raise concern about the safety of food,” Jose Graziano Da Silva said at the time.
Just a year after the nuclear incident japanese authorities began adopting the strictest radiation standards of any country in the world by lowering the accepted level of contamination by half.
But persuading prime export markets that Fukushima food is safe is proving to be tremendously difficult.

The Japan-Korea trade spat about Fukushima food products will not end with the WTO ruling

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March 5, 2018
Japan appears to have won the latest World Trade Organization (WTO) battle over South Korea’s post-Fukushima disaster food import ban and restrictions, but the trade spat between the East Asian giants looks set to continue.
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Fukushima seafood ban

2018-02-25
Korea should strive to prove harmful effects
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South Korea has decided to appeal the World Trade Organization’s ruling on its seafood import restrictions imposed following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
 
The decision came after a WTO dispute panel ruled the restrictions were justified right after the nuclear meltdown, but continuing them violated the WTO’s sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) agreement.
 
The ruling, however, does not mean the Seoul government should lift the limits immediately. As it decided to appeal, the country can keep them in place until the world body makes a final ruling which may come in the latter half of the year at the earliest.
 
Whatever the reason, the government should take the responsibility for losing out to Japan. It has taken only seven samples of affected Japanese seafood. It has failed to publish any reports about this matter in the past seven years. In addition, a committee of civilian radioactivity experts stopped its operations monitoring Japanese seafood. In a word, the authorities were ill-prepared for the dispute.
 
The seafood row began in May 2015 when the neighboring country filed a complaint against Korea over the restrictions. Korea imposed an import ban on 50 types of seafood caught in the waters near the disaster area. It also took further steps to limit fishery imports from seven other prefectures in 2013.
 
Those measures were to protect Korean consumers from the potential harmful effects of radioactive contamination. But the government has so far failed to prove such effects exist. Thus, it is no surprise Japan won the case.
 
Now, related government ministries and agencies should waste no efforts to collect scientific and objective data to prove the harmful effects. They also need to address Japan’s refusal to cooperate in probing seawater contamination near the disaster-hit area.
 
South Korea also needs to ask for help with 24 countries, including the U.S., Russia and Argentina, which also took measures against Japanese seafood after the Fukushima catastrophe. It must keep in mind that food safety is crucial to ensuring the people’s health.

Seoul defies WTO ruling, vows to keep ban on Japan’s Fukushima seafood

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South Korea vows to maintain its restrictions on Japanese seafood imports and appeal the WTO’s ruling against additional radiation tests and bans on fishery products introduced in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In 2015, Tokyo filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) challenging South Korea’s import bans that were introduced on certain fish caught in Japanese waters over fears of radiation following the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima power plant in March 2011. In its official complaint, Japan also challenged additional testing and certification requirements placed by Seoul on Japanese fish caught from eight prefectures near Fukushima.
On Thursday, the WTO ruled in Japan’s favor, claiming that while South Korean practices were initially justified, they now violate the WTO’s sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) agreement. “By maintaining the product-specific and blanket import bans on the 28 fishery products from the 8 prefectures and the 2011 and 2013 additional testing requirements on Japanese products, Korea acted inconsistently with Article 2.3, first sentence of the SPS Agreement and, as a consequence with Article 2.3, second sentence,” the ruling said.
South Korea on Friday refused to bow to the WTO ruling due to public health and safety concerns, announcing that it will challenge the ruling while maintaining the current level of restrictions.
“The Korean government will appeal to safeguard public health and safety,” the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a release. “Regardless of the decision, the current import ban will be put in place until the WTO’s dispute settlement procedure ends.”
Japan’s minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ken Saito, called Seoul’s disobedience regrettable. “Japan will respond accordingly so that our position will be accepted by the Appellate Body as well. We will also call on South Korea to sincerely and promptly correct their measures,” he said at a news conference.
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Twenty-four nations across the globe still have some import limitations on Japanese seafood products. Originally, 46 nations adopted protective measures but over time have eased their restriction practices to allow Japanese imports. Despite the ban on Fukushima products, South Korea has imported 708,566 tons of seafood from Japan since March 2011, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. South Korean authorities returned only around 0.03 percent of those imports, asking for additional radiation level tests.

 

Japan immorality in pushing the export of its contaminated foods to other countries

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.

http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004265927