Japan and China discuss food import ban not upheld for more than a year

Talks between Japan and China over Beijing’s import ban on Japanese food products have not taken place for more than a year, sources familiar with the bilateral ties recently told Kyodo News.

As China failed to respond to Japan’s request to resume talks amid soured bilateral relations, it is unclear when the ban will be lifted, as the stalemate could affect talks on China’s membership to a major free trade agreement in the Pacific, the sources said.

Following the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, Beijing banned food imports from Fukushima and several other prefectures due to the risk of radioactive contamination. Japan has asked China to hold a third meeting of a panel they established to discuss lifting the ban, the sources said.

The foreign ministers of the two countries agreed in November 2020 to establish the panel as Tokyo aimed to increase sales of Japanese food products in the Chinese market, and Beijing, which disagreed with the United States, hoped to improve the relations with Japan.

File photo showing Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi (front right) meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) in Tokyo in November 2020. (Kyodo)

Panel officials met in virtual meetings held in December 2020 and February 2021, the sources said.

But China did not agree to hold roundtables when Japan in November 2021 called for them, in an apparent protest against Japan’s decision in April of that year to dump treated radioactive water from the sea back into the sea. crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Bilateral relations deteriorated further when Chinese authorities temporarily detained a Japanese diplomat in Beijing in February this year for allegedly illegally collecting information.

China has banned imports of all food products from Fukushima and eight neighboring prefectures as well as food products except rice from Niigata prefecture.

In September last year, Beijing applied to join the trade deal officially known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The trade agreement requires member countries not to unfairly restrict food imports. A Japanese government source said a positive mood for China’s joining the deal can only be created in Japan if the import ban issue is resolved.