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WTO upholds South Korea ban on some Japan seafood imports over Fukushima nuclear disaster via The Japan Times

GENEVA/SEOUL – The World Trade Organization on Thursday ruled in favor of a South Korean ban on imports of some Japanese fishery products introduced in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, reversing an earlier decision against the restrictions.

The decision, delivered by the WTO’s appellate body for dispute settlements, the highest judicial entity of the organization’s mechanism to resolve disputes, leaves Japan with no legal recourse in a battle that has dragged on for years.

The appellate body invalidated the conclusions of a dispute settlement panel that made the earlier decision because, it said, the panel “erred in its interpretation and application” of WTO rules on food safety.

The appellate body, however, did not look at the details of the amount of contaminants in Japanese food products or how much protection South Korean consumers should have.

[…]

The South Korean government welcomed the decision Friday, saying it will maintain the current import ban on fishery products from Fukushima Prefecture and surrounding areas.

The ban will remain in place unless it is officially proven that there is no problem with importing fishery products from the areas concerned, Yoon Chang-ryeol, head of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, said during a press briefing.

The situation will continue to weigh on Japan, which aims to achieve the early reconstruction of areas affected by the March 2011 disasters.
The ruling could also have an impact beyond South Korea.
At present, 23 countries and regions have import restrictions on Japanese food products.

China, which last year started easing its own restrictions on importing Japanese food items, may become more cautious going forward. Taiwan, which has been in a political bind after voters in a referendum last year approved keeping its import ban, will likely feel it has renewed justification to do so despite pressure from Japan.

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