by Staff Writers
Phnom Penh (AFP) July 10, 2012
Japan pressed Southeast Asian nations on Tuesday to lift curbs on its exports imposed after last year's earthquake and subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Speaking at a regional summit, Tsuyoshi Michael Yamaguchi, Japan's senior vice-minister for foreign affairs, called for a review of restrictions introduced amid fears some agricultural produce could be contaminated by radiation.
"I wanted to ask countries to relax or lift restrictions... based on scientific data," Yamaguchi told reporters at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Phnom Penh.
"People will find that there's no more danger," he said, adding the perception of Japanese goods as being contaminated "was not the case."
Yamaguchi earlier told the gathering of ASEAN foreign ministers -- to which Japan, China and South Korea are also invited -- that he hoped for "fruitful discussions" on the issue.
His comments came a day after Japan posted poor economic figures, underscoring fears about a recovery for the world's third-largest economy amid turmoil in Europe, a key export market.
Meltdowns at the Fukushima plant in the aftermath of last year's March 11 tsunami sent radioactive particles into the air and water, contaminating crops grown near the power station and polluting waters where seafood is harvested.
The Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia were among a host of countries to impose restrictions on some Japanese produce after the disaster.
Exports of Japanese farm products -- once prized by its neighbours for quality -- fell 7.4 percent in 2011 from the previous year while overseas sales of marine products slumped nearly 11 percent.
In April, Japan agreed to try to double trade with ASEAN's 10 members over the next decade.
According to the World Bank, Japan is already the largest foreign investor in Thailand and the Philippines, and the second or third largest in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.
ASEAN represents a market of nearly 600 million people.
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