STC Number - 359

Strengthened import restrictions on food and feeds products with regard to radionuclides

Maintained by: Korea, Republic of
Raised by: Japan
Supported by:
First date raised: October 2013 G/SPS/R/73, pars. 3.7-3.9
Dates subsequently raised: March 2014 (G/SPS/R/74, paras. 3.19-3.20)
July 2014 (G/SPS/R/75, paras. 4.29-4.30)
October 2014 (G/SPS/R/76, paras. 3.9-3.10)
March 2015 (G/SPS/R/78, paras. 3.16-3.17)
Number of times subsequently raised: 4
Relevant documents: Raised orally
Products covered:
Primary subject keyword: Food safety
Keywords:
Status: Not reported
Solution: DSU consultations requested on 21/05/2015 (WT/DS495/1). Panel established on 28/09/2015. Panel report circulated on 22/02/2018. Panel report under appeal on 9 April 2018.
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In October 2013, Japan expressed concerns regarding Korea's fishery import restrictions, including a ban on imports from eight prefectures and additional testing and certification requirements in all cases where radioactive Cesium was detected, even in quantities below the Korean limit of 100 Bq/kg. This requirement applied exclusively to Japanese products; Korean and other trading partners' products could be distributed as long as the radioactive Cesium level remained below 100 Bq/kg.
Japan reiterated that contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station had been detected only within an area of 0.3 square kilometres inside the port, and that the problem of contaminated water should not be equated with the safety of Japanese fishery products. Japan's central and local governments had taken measures to prevent the distribution of fishery products where required, and the amount of samples exceeding the limit of 100 Bq/kg had drastically decreased both in the Fukushima prefecture (from 53% in March/June 2011 to 2.2% in July/September 2013) and elsewhere (from 6.5% to 0.4% during the same periods). Japan recalled that SPS measures must not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate between trading partners and urged Korea to provide a scientific basis for its measures or explain concretely how the available scientific evidence was insufficient to carry out a risk assessment.
Korea indicated that its measures were in accordance with Article 5.7 of the SPS Agreement, as a result of insufficient scientific evidence and the potentially far-reaching cumulative effects of radioactive contamination on human health. Korea was reviewing the information provided by Japan but needed more time to come to a final determination.

In March 2014 Japan reiterated its concerns regarding Korea's food, fisheries and feed import restrictions. These included a ban on imports from eight prefectures and additional testing and certification requirements in all cases where radioactive Cesium was detected, even in quantities below the Korean limit of 100 Bq/kg. This requirement applied exclusively to Japanese products; Korean and other trading partners' products could be distributed as long as the radioactive Cesium level remained below 100 Bq/kg. Japan noted that Korea also required inspection certificates on feed exported from certain areas in Japan.
Korea explained that its measures were in accordance with Article 5.7 of the SPS Agreement, as a result of insufficient scientific evidence and the potentially far-reaching cumulative effects of radioactive contamination on food safety and human health. Korea was in the process of reviewing requested information provided by Japan in January 2014, but given the complexity of the issue, needed more time to come to a final determination. Korea was willing to engage with Japanese experts and discuss bilaterally in order to finalize this process promptly.

In july 2014 Japan reiterated its concerns regarding Korea's food, fisheries and livestock products import restrictions. These bans and additional testing requirements for radionuclides were non-transparent, not based on science, discriminatory and more trade-restrictive than necessary. Japan had held numerous bilateral meetings and provided detailed information to Korea, and had offered additional meetings between experts, but Korea had not agreed to participate. In March 2014, according to Articles 4 and 5.8 of the SPS Agreement, Japan had requested Korea: (1) to provide an explanation of the objectives and reasons for Korea's SPS measures; (2) to identify the risks that its measures intend to address; (3) to indicate the level of protection that its measures intend to achieve; and (4) to provide a copy of any risk assessments undertaken. In June 2014, Japan had reiterated its written request. Furthermore, Korea's measures had not been published and the Korean enquiry point had not responded to requests for additional information. If Korea continued ignoring Japan's requests, Japan would have no choice but to resort to other actions under the WTO.
Korea explained that its measures were in accordance with Article 5.7 of the SPS Agreement, to protect human health and food safety from radioactive contamination. Korea was in the process of reviewing information provided by Japan in January 2014. In parallel, Korea had held several expert meetings with Japan, and was willing to hold technical experts meetings and conduct on-site visits after reviewing the information, if necessary.

In October 2014 Japan reiterated its concern regarding Korea's import restrictions on fishery and food products, as these bans and additional testing requirements for radionuclides were non-transparent, not based on science, discriminatory and more trade-restrictive than necessary. Japan had held numerous bilateral meetings and provided detailed information to Korea, and sought to use the tools set forth in the SPS Agreement to reach an amicable solution. While Korea had recently started to provide some responses to Japan's questions raised under Articles 4, 5.8 and 7 of the SPS Agreement, these were insufficient. Yet, Japan welcomed Korea's indication that it was conducting a review, and its clarification on the appropriate level of protection underpinning its measures in relation to the radionuclide thresholds established in Codex STAN 193-1995. Japan was concerned about the lack of transparency surrounding Korea's review of the measures taken between 2011 and 2013, and encouraged Korea to provide more information on its review meetings and timeframes. Japan hoped that this review would include an objective, transparent and science-based reassessment of Korea's measures in accordance with international standards, such as Codex Working Principle CAC/GL 62-2007. Japan reiterated that if Korea continued ignoring Japan's requests, Japan would have no choice but to resort to other actions under the WTO.
Korea clarified that its measures were in accordance with Article 5.7 of the SPS Agreement, to protect human health and food safety from radioactive contamination. Korea had been seeking to obtain additional information for a more objective and science-based risk assessment, but received insufficient data from Japan. The latest technical meeting had been held on 18 September 2014. Korea was willing to conduct additional expert meetings and hoped for full co-operation with Japan to finalize its review process and resolve this issue.

In March 2015 Japan reiterated its concern regarding the additional import bans and testing requirements maintained by the Government of Korea on Japanese food products. Japan considered that these bans and the additional testing requirements were non-transparent, discriminatory, more trade-restrictive than necessary and lacked a scientific basis. Japan had held numerous bilateral meetings and provided detailed information to Korea, seeking to use the tools set forth in the SPS Agreement to reach an amicable solution. In addition, at the request of the Korean government, Japan had hosted on-site visits by a Korean investigative committee in December 2014 and January 2015, and had assisted the committee's members in fully understanding the extent of the measures that Japan had taken to secure the safety of Japanese fishery products. In contrast, Korea had failed to respond to Japan's requests and had provided no information on the timeline and steps towards the lifting of its measures. To illustrate the damage of this ban, Japan reported the example of the Tohoku area, where around 70% of farmed sea squirt was previously exported to Korea. The Tohoku sea squirt farmers were now facing a ban despite the fact that more than 150 samples from sea squirt had been inspected, with radioactive cesium either significantly below Korea's safety thresholds or so low as to be non-detectable. Japan stressed the fact that Korea's ban on such products lacked any scientific basis and reiterated that if Korea continued ignoring Japan's requests, Japan would have no choice but to resort to other actions under the WTO.
Korea noted that the necessary procedures to resolve this issue in a bilateral way had been in place since Japan had first raised this issue in the SPS Committee. Korea explained that the ban had been adopted as a provisional measure in accordance with Article 5.7 of the SPS Agreement. At the same time, Korea had sought to obtain additional information from the Japanese government and had organized a private experts committee to review this information and to verify the scientific evidence. Korean experts had also visited Japan three times since last December. Korea was in the process of reviewing all the information obtained and hoped for full co-operation with Japan to solve this issue bilaterally.

In accordance with the provisions of the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes (DSU), Japan requested consultations with Korea on 21 May 2015 (WT/DS495/1). The Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) established a panel on 28 September 2015 (WT/DS495/4). The panel report was issued on 22 February 2018 (WT/DS495/R). Panel report under appeal on 9 April 2018.