Japan to keep pushing EU to relax restrictions on food imports from Japan: farm minister

TOKYO, Sept. 13 – Agriculture minister Ken Saito said Tuesday the government will strengthen efforts to urge the European Union to ease restrictions imposed on Japanese food imports over the Fukushima nuclear disaster, after the European Parliament’s environment committee adopted a resolution earlier this month condemning the European Commission’s plans to relax controls on the imports.

“If they look at the current situation of Japan-made food products based on scientific grounds, I believe the moves to ease restrictions will be accelerated,” Saito said at a regular news conference after the Cabinet meeting.

In July, the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, announced a draft amendment to its regulation on imports of agricultural and marine produce from Japan, including scrapping the radiation inspection certificate obligation for rice from Fukushima Prefecture.

The draft plan was expected to be officially approved by the end of this month, but the latest resolution by the committee in charge of food safety issues could affect the decision.

Following the adoption of the resolution, Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori visited the agriculture ministry on Tuesday and asked Saito to pressure the EU for early deregulation of import restrictions, handing him a letter of request from 10 prefectures including Fukushima.

Uchibori said that in light of the strict safety measures implemented at production areas, it is hard to think that the committee’s resolution was carried with sufficient understanding of the actual situation in Japan and Fukushima.

“After the resolution was passed, we strongly urged the EU (to move on with deregulation),” Saito said, stressing his determination to continue pressuring.

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