Japan tells WTO China’s seafood ban over Fukushima water ‘unacceptable’

Japanese officials have signalled Tokyo may file a formal WTO complaint over China’s trade restrictions.

Japanese seafood
China, including Hong Kong, has restricted Japanese seafood imports [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Japan has told the World Trade Organization (WTO) that China’s ban on Japanese seafood after the release of treated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant is “totally unacceptable”.

In a counterargument to China’s August 31 notification to the WTO on its measures to suspend Japanese aquatic imports, 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 1 percent of Japan’s global trade, which is dominated by cars, Japan exported about $600m worth of aquatic products to mainland China in 2022, making it the biggest market for Japanese exports, followed by Hong Kong.

To ease the pain of losing that seafood demand, Japan has said it will spend more than 100 billion yen ($682m) to support the domestic fisheries industry.

Source: Reuters