Japan on Tuesday announced an emergency fund to help exporters affected by China’s ban on importing Japanese seafood due to the release of treated radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The fund will have a value of 20.7 billion yen (130.6 million euros).
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The discharge of wastewater into the ocean began on Aug. 24 and is expected to continue for decades. Japanese fishermen’s associations and groups from neighboring countries strongly opposed this measure. Hong Kong and Macao also followed mainland China’s stance of banning imports.
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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the emergency fund comes in addition to the 80 billion yen (507 million euros) that the government previously allocated to these companies to combat the damage caused to the reputation of Japanese products. “We will protect the Japanese fishing industry at all costs,” said Kishida, appealing to domestic consumption.
The money will be used to find new markets and to finance government purchases of these products for temporary freezing and storage. Officials said they plan to cultivate new export destinations in Taiwan, the United States, Europe, the Middle East and some Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Singapore.
Large amounts of radioactive wastewater have accumulated at the Fukushima plant since a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed cooling systems and caused three reactors to melt down. According to the Japanese authorities and the plant operator, all seawater and fish samples collected since the beginning of the release of treated wastewater are well below established safety limits.those for radioactivity.
Mainland China was the biggest foreign market for Japanese seafood, accounting for 22.5% of the total, followed by Hong Kong with 20%, making the ban a heavy blow to the fisheries sector.
Sea products make up a fraction of Japan’s total exports and the ban’s impact on global trade will be limited unless tensions rise and China extends restrictions to other trade sectors, said the executive economist at Nomura Research Institute. According to Takahide Kiuchi, the restrictions imposed by Tokyo and possible future measures could lead to an escalation of Chinese trade bans against Japan.