Tokyo (AFP) April 24, 2011
Trade ministers from Japan, China and South Korea Sunday said ensuring free trade would help reconstruction after the March 11 tsunami as Tokyo stressed its exports were safe despite a nuclear crisis.
Japan's Trade Minister Banri Kaieda and his Chinese and South Korean counterparts, Chen Deming and Kim Jong-Hoon, met as Japan struggles with the massive destruction from the 9.0 magnitude quake and monster wave it triggered.
The ministers agreed that swift reconstruction of the disaster-hit areas would be vital for the regional economy.
"We share the view that the recovery of the stricken region as well as Japan as a whole is in the interests of all the three countries," they said in a joint statement.
"We arrive at the common understanding that it is important to continue to secure the prompt and smooth flow of goods and persons in the Asian region."
Manufacturers across Japan shut production lines or cut back output because of damage or power shortages and supply chain problems after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, which crippled an atomic power plant, triggering the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.
"The maintenance and development of a free and open trade system will not only enormously support the recovery process of the stricken region of Japan but also effectively secure vigorous and sustainable growth of all three countries," the statement said.
China and South Korea have imposed bans on food products from prefectures near the stricken nuclear plant, which has been leaking radiation.
Kaieda stressed that Japanese exports were safe and called on China and South Korea to "handle the issue based on scientific grounds", a trade ministry official told AFP.
"Trade Minister Kaieda told them that Japanese products are safe because authorities are taking food samples and checking on radiation levels while industrial products are manufactured indoor," he said.
Japan has also earmarked 700 million yen ($8.6 million) to help cover exporters' radiation screening expenses, the trade ministry said.
In addition to banning food from areas near the plant, Chinese authorities have demanded that food imports from other areas be accompanied by certificates showing they were free of radioactivity and giving their places of origin.
South Korea has banned the sale of vegetables and some other food items from four prefectures closest to the Fukushima plant.
Similar bans have been imposed by Russia, the United States, Taiwan and Singapore.
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