Japan to push for ban lifts after Fukushima-related row victory

TOKYO, Feb. 24 — Japan will step up efforts in talks with countries to lift import restrictions imposed on Japanese foods, following the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s ruling on the Fukushima-related seafood dispute with South Korea.

The WTO backed a Japanese complaint against South Korea’s import bans on seafood as well as additional testing requirements on agricultural foods after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

A WTO dispute panel ruled Seoul’s import bans were justified right after the nuclear meltdown, but continuing them violated the WTO’s sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) agreement.

“Japan welcomes the WTO ruling,” said Agriculture Minister Ken Saito at a press conference on Feb. 23. “We will accelerate talks with countries to lift such bans.”

But on the same day, South Korea announced it will appeal, with WTO procedures requiring it to do so within a 60-day window.

That means Seoul can keep the restriction measures in place until the world body makes a final ruling, which may come much later, as the U.S. has been blocking the appointment of new judges to the WTO’s Appellate Body.

Many countries have removed or relaxed restriction measures on produce from Japan, but 27 countries including Hong Kong, the United States and China still have the measures in place up to now.

In the Japan-U.S. Economic Dialogue, Tokyo has been asking Washington to relax restrictions on Japanese agricultural foods.

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