(Sankei: March 14, 2016 – p. 2)
Even five years after the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, only 17 of the 54 countries and regions that imposed bans on imports of Japanese agricultural and fishery products have removed them, inquiries by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries revealed on March 13. Countries that are close in proximity to Japan have imposed the strictest restrictions on imports of food items and it remains to be seen when they will lift their bans. Amid the need to strengthen the competitiveness of Japan’s agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries in preparation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, producers in the disaster-affected areas are being sapped of motivation due to this ongoing situation.
Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and South Korea continue to impose bans on food imports mainly from the areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Even when the import bans are lifted, certificates of origin and documents showing that the products have been inspected for radioactive substances still need to be submitted. Rumors also continue to have an impact.
The government has repeatedly explained to the international community that the levels of radioactive materials in Japanese products are below the safety standards and that the countries’ regulatory measures lack scientific evidence. However, some countries even ban imports of agricultural products made in prefectures that do not export marine products. Furthermore, South Korea and Taiwan have actually tightened their restrictions. In response, the government filed a complaint last May with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against South Korea. (Slightly abridged)