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Sunday, May 8, 2011
Trusting imports from Japan
The crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has prompted many countries to restrict the import of Japanese agricultural and industrial products. In recent talks with U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton in Washington, Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto asked for American help in preventing import restrictions on Japanese products when they appear based on unfounded information.
Although Prime Minister Naoto Kan, in articles for publication in overseas newspapers, has stressed the safety of Japanese products, Japanese producers and exporters face difficulties.
Mr. Matsumoto has decided to give priority to mending the damage to the Japanese economy caused by the March 11 earthquake-tsunami and the subsequent nuclear crisis. He is publicizing the safety of Japanese products at various diplomatic meetings and through Japanese diplomatic missions abroad. He is also providing information and explanations to embassies of foreign countries in Tokyo.
According to the farm ministry, 19 nations and regions, including China, South Korea and the European Union, are either prohibiting the import of all Japanese agricultural products or requiring submission of noncontamination certificates issued by the Japanese government.
Seventeen other countries are partially prohibiting the import of Japanese farm products or requiring submission of noncontamination certificates.
According to the trade and industry ministry, 12 nations and regions are carrying out radiation checks on Japanese industrial products. The number of tourists visiting Japan also has dropped sharply.
The government must show reliable scientific data on Japanese products to foreign governments. If import restrictions appear unreasonable, it should request that they be rectified.
More important, however, is full disclosure of information on the status of the nuclear crisis. In early April, for example, Japan was criticized for releasing without advance notice some 11,500 tons of highly contaminated water from the nuclear power plant into the sea.
At the very least, trust in Japanese products and services won't be restored until Japan can be counted on to provide correct information about the crisis.