(Yicai Global) Jan. 2 -- China may be considering relaxing a ban it imposed on food imports from 10 Japanese counties including Miyagi and Fukushima since March 2011 when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster occurred, reported Japanese Kyodo News.
Governments of the two countries are negotiating to relax or lift Chinese import restrictions, and China has proposed setting up a working team to this end, Kyodo News claimed. China did not respond to calls from Japan to relax or lift the ban in the past, said an unnamed source, quoted by Kyodo News. No date has been set for the establishment of the working team, but Japan has accepted China's proposal, the source added.
Both sides are considering improving bilateral relations, as this year ushers in the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expects for reciprocal visits with Chinese president Xi Jinping this year. Relaxing the food ban is likely to be on the agenda, the Japanese paper said.
Toshihiro Nikai, a member of the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party, held talks with Zhi Shuping, head of China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, when he visited Beijing on Dec. 29 last year. In response to Toshihiro's request on lifting the import ban, Zhi said consideration will be given to the issue based on the political landscape as the relations of the two countries are improving, and proposed setting up of a working team, the paper reported.
Koya Nishikawa, former Japanese minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries and a member of cabinet secretariat, also attended the meeting. Japan expects China to take action to modify the import ban, the report added.
"China has given a different response this time, and negotiations may make progress in the future," another source told Kyodo News.
Some nine countries and regions including China, South Korea and Hong Kong, wholly or partially prohibited import of food produced in Japan. China requires that the food produced in other areas than the 10 Japanese counties must also carry radioactive material inspection qualification certificate and certificate of origin, whose provision is highly strict, said Japan's ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries said. The European Union (EU) has partially relaxed its restrictions on the imported Japanese food recently.