China’s ban on Japanese food used as ‘bargaining currency’

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At the end of February, Taiwan lifted its ban on food products from Fukushima and four other prefectures. Britain is also expected to lift related restrictions by the end of June. According to government sources, Japan has contacted both governments to ask them to lift their embargoes, saying food made in Japan is safe because it has undergone strict inspections for radioactive materials.

China is another story, however. According to a source with knowledge of China-Japan relations, Chinese customs officials “won’t even pick up the phone” when the Japanese side calls in hopes of negotiating the deal.

But following a 2018 visit by then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, China only removed restrictions on rice from Niigata prefecture. Some observers say China is gradually easing its import restrictions so it can tout the move as a success in summit talks and other exchanges with Japan.

Later this year, Beijing and Tokyo will mark 50 years since the normalization of diplomatic relations. Still, under the current circumstances, working-level officials in China “are somewhat reluctant to agree to talks with Japan, having gauged the sentiment among senior ranks,” the source said.

China, Taiwan and Britain all want to join the TPP. But the free trade bloc stipulates that sanitary and phytosanitary measures aimed at guaranteeing food safety must be based on scientific bases. According to a source with knowledge of the TPP negotiations, however, China “is far from the starting point in terms of negotiating its entry into the bloc”, due to its tendency to ease politically-motivated restrictions instead. only on scientific grounds.

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Asian News Network

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