Nations around the world are gradually scrapping or relaxing their restrictions on Japanese food imports put in place after the 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. Singapore on Monday announced it would no longer ban food imports from Fukushima Prefecture, and the European Union is set to relax import restrictions on Nov. 14. The government plans to continue its efforts to promote the safety of Japanese food products.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that his nation would remove import restrictions during a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Bangkok on Monday. At a press conference Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “We welcome and praise the decision. We will continue to take every opportunity to push for the abolishment of regulations put in place by countries after the Great East Japan Earthquake.”
According to the Foreign Ministry, the number of countries and regions that have abolished or relaxed import restrictions, or will do so, in this year alone is expected to be 13. The European Union will no longer require products to be certified as having been tested for radioactive substances, with the exception of some items such as marine products from Fukushima Prefecture and wild vegetables from eastern Japan. Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland plan to relax their restrictions in line with the EU.
In October, Brunei announced it would roll back all of its restrictions. Macao, which had prohibited the import of vegetables, fruits and dairy products from nine prefectures, including Miyagi, Ibaraki and Tochigi, will allow imports if they are accompanied by the proper paperwork.
In April, the appellate body of the World Trade Organization overturned a decision by a WTO dispute settlement panel that had ruled in favor of Japan in a case involving South Korea’s ban on Japanese marine imports.
In response to the defeat, the government has raised the topic of food regulations at summit and foreign ministerial meetings. In May and June, the Foreign Ministry invited ambassadors from various countries to hear explanations of food safety. “The results of increased efforts at all levels are beginning to bear fruit,” a senior ministry official said.
However, China, South Korea and Taiwan still have import bans in place.
China and South Korea “use import restrictions as a political and diplomatic card,” said a senior ministry official. Amid a dip in relations over lawsuits in South Korea involving the issue of former wartime requisitioned workers, Seoul has expressed concern about the fact that food products from areas affected by the 2011 accident will be served at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
In a referendum in November last year, the people of Taiwan voted to continue import restrictions. The Japanese government said it will continue to encourage these countries and region to quickly abolish their restrictions.