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article imageJapan files complaint with WTO over S. Korea food import bans

By Karen Graham     May 22, 2015 in Business
Tokyo - Japan is challenging South Korea's import bans and increased restrictions on foods from Japan after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. On Thursday, the central government filed a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization.
Japan's central government is citing increased restrictions imposed by South Korea in 2013, as well as additional testing requirements on seafood imported from the island country, according to Reuters.
In a statement on Thursday, the WTO said that Japan is saying a number of measures imposed by South Korea are in violation of the WTO's sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) agreement, and Seoul has failed to justify the trade restrictions.
South Korea in response, expressed regrets over Japan's actions and said the restrictions on some Japanese seafood was necessary and reflected safety concerns. Under WTO rules, South Korea has 60 days to resolve the issue with Japan through bilateral talks. If the problem is not resolved, the WTO could be asked to adjudicate the matter.
"In upcoming talks with Japan, we plan to explain fully that the import ban is necessary for people's safety, and actively deal with Japan over the issue they raised based upon WTO's dispute settlement procedures," South Korea’s trade, agriculture, foreign affairs and other related ministries said in a joint statement.
There were no details available concerning Japan's complaint to the WTO, but it is probable they center on the same issues repeatedly raised by Japan over Fukushima-related trade restrictions imposed by Taiwan and China. Just last week, Taiwan increased trade restrictions on food items imported from Japan. Japan threatened at that time to go to the WTO.
At the March meeting of the WTO's SPS committee, Japan told the agency radioactive levels in Japanese food had decreased substantially since the nuclear accident in 2011. Japan also told the committee the United States, Australia, the European Union, Singapore and Vietnam had all lifted or eased their Fukushima-related restrictions.
“We’ve urged the South Korean government to lift the ban, but we expect it is unlikely to be dropped quickly,” Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said in a statement on Thursday, reported the Japan Times.
Data from the International Trade Center in Geneva shows that the value of South Korean imports of Japanese fish and seafood was $96 million in 2012-2014. This is less than half the import value of $213 million in 2006 through 2010.
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