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Taiwan Food Imports from Fukushima-Affected Areas Become Wedge Issue with Japan

Japanese government keeps on trying to ram food exports from Fukushima radiation affected areas down the throats of their Asian neighbors ….
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Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe
December 17, 2018
IT IS UNSURPRISING that Taiwan will not be admitted to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CFTPP) because of the referendum vote against food imports from Fukushima-affected areas held in late November concurrent with nine-in-one elections. Namely, the issue of food imports is one upon which Taiwan has long been pushed around by larger, more powerful countries, who dangle the threat of being denied admittance to international free trade agreements if Taiwan does not allow food imports.
The Abe administration has in the past made allowing food imports from Fukushima-affected areas a condition for stronger diplomatic relations with Japan. This would be part of a more general effort by the Abe administration to promote the prefecture of Fukushima as safe, with concerns that lingering radiation may still cause harmful effects in the region after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The Abe administration has thus attempted to promote food exports from the area, as well as to encourage tourism to the area.
Concerns over whether food from Fukushima is safe are valid, seeing as this is an issue of contention in Japan itself. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is deeply wedded to the Japanese nuclear industry, with an unusual willingness to push for nuclear energy in spite of outbreaks of large-scale public protest. Concerns have also been longstanding that the LDP has been unwilling to provide accurate nuclear assessments for the Fukushima area, or sought to mislead through official statistics.
After the results of the referendum in late November, in which 7,791,856 voted against allowing food imports from Fukushima, the Japanese government initially expressed understanding regarding the results of the referendum, suggesting that not allowing food imports from Fukushima would not be an obstacle for Japan-Taiwan relations going forward. However, this appears to have not entirely been the truth.
Indeed, as the KMT was a powerful force behind the push for the referendum, it is likely that the KMT sought to use the issue of food imports from Fukushima-affected areas as a means to not only to attack the DPP with the accusation that it was endangering public safety but also sabotage closer relations between Japan and Taiwan. Apart from that the KMT’s Chinese nationalism has a strong anti-Japanese element, the KMT is pro-unification and so opposes closer ties between Japan and Taiwan, seeing as Japan could be a powerful regional ally that interceded on behalf of Taiwan against Chinese incursion.
The CFTPP is a regional free trade agreement that is the form that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) took on after America withdrew from the trade agreement under Donald Trump. Despite the fact that the TPP was orchestrated under American auspices as a means to counter growing Chinese influence in the Asia-Pacific region, the Trump administration favored protectionism instead of free trade, seeing free trade as overextending American resources rather than expanding its economic reach.
Japan subsequently became the dominant power among former TPP signatories, continuing to push for the agreement because it was still beneficial to Asia-Pacific nations to economically integrate as a regional bloc against the threat of China.
This would not be the first time that food imports have been used as a condition of Taiwan’s admittance to or denial from the TPP framework. America previously made allowing American beef imports into Taiwan to be a condition of Taiwan’s possibly entering into the TPP, seeing as there were in concerns in Taiwan that the use of the hormone ractopamine—banned in most of the world’s countries but not in America—was unsafe. This, too, was a valid concern regarding food safety, but the KMT was interested in the issue because it hoped to use this as a wedge issue to sabotage relations between Taiwan and the US.
Now that Japan is the primary driving force behind the CFTPP, as the renewed version of the TPP, food imports from Fukushima-affected areas have taken priority as the issue which would determine Taiwan’s admittance or non-admittance to the CFTPP. As free trade agreements are more generally a way for large, powerful countries to coerce smaller, weaker countries into relations of economic subordination, this would be nothing surprising.
More generally, free trade agreements have also long been held over the heads of Taiwanese voters in order to influence how they vote, as observed in the examples of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement or the Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement under the Ma administration. But in light of the issue of food imports from Fukushima-affected areas being a contested issue in Taiwan, it remains to be seen whether the CFTPP will become a significant wedge issue in Taiwanese politics going forward.
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December 20, 2018 Posted by | Taiwan | , , | Leave a comment

More time needed for confidence to return on Fukushima produce: Lam

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam
 
Oct. 22, 2018
HONG KONG – More time is needed for Hong Kong to lift its ban on food imports from Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture imposed in the wake of the 2011 nuclear disaster there as public confidence remains low, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said.
In an interview with Japanese media ahead of her first official working trip to Tokyo since taking office as chief executive in 2017, Lam said that while food safety remains a priority, consumer sentiment is another deciding factor for when the ban should be lifted.
“We will have to continue to monitor the situation and to see when is the right time, especially (for) public acceptance,” Lam said.
She said there’s no point in the government relaxing the ban if the public end up not supporting the move. “They will still not buy the food, so we have to find the right situation with the needed assurance before we change the import restrictions,” she added.
Hong Kong in July lifted the ban on imports of foods including vegetables, fruits, milk, milk beverages and milk formula from the prefectures of Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba and Gunma nearby Fukushima.
But the ban on food imports from Fukushima, which hosts the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, remains in place.
Lam said that since the lifting of the food ban from the four prefectures, individual cases of food imports lacking needed certificates have led to law enforcement activities, which in turn impacted public confidence.
China, which restricted the import of foods and feedstuff produced in 10 of Japan’s 47 prefectures over radiation worries, has informed Japan of its intention to relax the ban through diplomatic channels, it was reported, according to the sources.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to reach a deal when he meets with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Oct 26.
Defending Hong Kong’s recent moves to outlaw an independence-seeking political party and expel a foreign journalist who hosted a talk by the party’s leader, Lam insisted that the people’s rights and freedoms remain intact.
“I am not suggesting that I should, or the government should put a limit on freedom of speech or freedom of reporting in Hong Kong. I am saying, internationally, there is no absolute freedom per se. If anybody is aggrieved by the executive…they can take us to court,” she said.
Lam said judges from foreign common law jurisdictions, including Britain, Australia and Canada, sitting on the territory’s top court to adjudicate cases is proof that Hong Kong courts are not interfered with or influenced by the Chinese government.
The chief executive will embark on the five-day visit to Japan from Oct 29, a first for a Hong Kong leader since 2010. She is slated to meet with Japanese officials over issues covering government business, trade and investment, education, technology science, tourism and women’s affairs.

October 27, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Abe and Xi expected to discuss food import ban, but chances of progress uncertain

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to visit Beijing this week, with China’s food import ban on Japan likely to be discussed
 
Oct 21, 2018
China’s import ban on Japanese food introduced following the March 2011 nuclear disaster is likely to be discussed between Japanese and Chinese leaders in upcoming summit talks in Beijing this week, though whether any progress can be made on the discussion is uncertain.
China has taken a cautious approach to relaxing the import regulations due to safety concerns among the public.
China has a ban in place on food imports from 10 prefectures: Fukushima, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, Niigata and Nagano. Food products made in other prefectures need to have certificates that confirm they have passed radioactive checks.
China introduced the ban because of concerns over radioactive contamination due to the meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
Japan has been asking Beijing to lift the ban at an early date.
In an effort to make this happen, Tokyo has explained the examination process for food and provided data related to their safety.
But China has stood pat over concerns that lifting the ban could create public backlash. Also behind the inaction were tensions over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by Beijing, informed sources said.
Amid warming bilateral ties and an improvement in the public’s perception of Japanese food, Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang agreed in May this year to start working-level talks for a possible easing of the import regulations.
The focus now is on how much progress can be made at the working level before Abe’s three-day visit to China from Thursday, which comes as the two countries mark the 40th anniversary of the entry into force of their peace and friendship treaty, the sources said.
If the ban is relaxed, Japan is expected to make progress toward its goal of attaining ¥1 trillion in annual exports in the agricultural, forestry and fishery sectors, the sources said.
The nuclear disaster led a total 54 economies to introduce import restrictions or strengthen radioactive checks on Japanese food products.
Of them, 29 had scrapped their restrictions as of August this year and 17 others conditionally resumed imports. China is among the eight that maintain import bans on food made in some prefectures.

October 27, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment