South Korea has won legitimacy to restrict fisheries imports from waters near the 2011 nuclear disaster-hit coast in Japan after the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s appellate body Thursday overturned the first trial ruling to side with Seoul’s decision.
With the final ruling, Seoul’s current import bans on 28 kinds of fish caught from Fukushima and seven nearby prefectures can stay in place.
The appellate body overturned two key points of the 2018 verdict, saying the Korean government measures do not fall into the category of arbitrary discrimination and do not represent unfair trade restrictions.
In February 2018, the WTO’s dispute panel ruled that Seoul`s import bans on Japanese seafood and stricter radioactive testing were restrictive and violated the WTO’s sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) agreement, saying food safety could be achieved by cesium testing alone. The ruling was appealed by Seoul six months later. The latest decision marks the first time that an earlier ruling related to SPS disputes was reversed by the WTO appellate body.
The appellate body, however, took sides with Japan in one point, saying that South Korea has not provided enough information to the Japanese government in terms of its import ban measures.
About 50 countries have maintained bans on seafood imports from Japan since the crisis, but Japan lodged a complaint at the WTO only against South Korea in 2015.
By Lim Sung-hyun and Minu Kim
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