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Japan to WTO: China's Fukushima-related seafood ban 'totally unacceptable'

Japan to WTO: China's Fukushima-related seafood ban 'totally unacceptable'
A customer browses through locally caught seafood at the Hamanoeki Fish Market and Food Court in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, Aug 31, 2023.
PHOTO: Reuters file

TOKYO — Japan has told the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that China's ban on Japanese seafood after the release of treated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant was "totally unacceptable", the Japanese foreign ministry said late on Monday (Sept 4).

In a counterargument to China's Aug 31 notification to WTO on its measures to suspend Japanese aquatic imports, which started last month, Japan said it would explain its positions in relevant WTO committees and urged China to immediately repeal the action.

Some Japanese officials have signalled the country may file a WTO complaint, which the US ambassador to Japan said last week the United States would support.

Japan will explain the safety of the released water at diplomatic forums, including the Asean Summit in Indonesia and G20 Summit in India this month, chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters on Tuesday.

"Nothing is decided about a Japan-China leaders' meeting," added Matsuno, Tokyo's top government spokesperson. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and China's Premier Li Qiang will attend the Asean and G20 summits, while Chinese President Xi Jinping is skipping both conferences.

In a separate statement on Monday, Tokyo's foreign ministry said Japan has also asked China to hold discussions over the import ban based on the provisions of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact.

Although marine products make up less than one per cent of Japan's global trade, which is dominated by cars, Japan exported about US$600 million (S$816 million) worth of aquatic products to China in 2022, making it the biggest market for Japanese exports, followed by Hong Kong.

Data on Tuesday showed China-bound exports of aquatic products fell for the first time in 2 1/2 years in July, dropping 23 per cent year-on-year to 7.7 billion yen (S$71.33 million).

Goods bound for China have faced stricter inspections since Japan announced its plan to release the treated Fukushima water, slowing down shipments.

To ease the pain of losing that seafood demand, Japan will spend more than 100 billion yen to support the domestic fisheries industry.

ALSO READ: Japan has no plans to boost funds to ease reputation damage from Fukushima water release

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