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Japan's "trade protectionism" criticized
( 2002-08-16 09:14 ) (1 )

Senior Chinese officials Thursday described Japan's quarantine and inspection of Chinese vegetable exports as "trade protectionism."

They also criticized as "one-sided," "unfair" and "exaggerated" some reports in the Japanese media on the safety and quality of Chinese vegetables but did not name any media outlets.

Guo Li, assistant minister of foreign trade and economic co-operation, said that, by labelling Chinese vegetables as "poisonous," the reports misled Japanese consumers and have severely damaged the image of Chinese products.

She said China strongly opposes "unfair and discriminatory" inspections of its exports and hopes Japan will immediately stop its "unfair" trade measures to avoid a repetition of last year's trade disputes over farm produce between the two countries.

Cao Xumin - chairman of the China Chamber of Commerce for the Import and Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-products - said Japan's stricter quarantine and inspection measures aim to stop vegetable imports from China and shield backward local industries under the guise of protecting consumers' interests.

He said Chinese vegetables are generally safe and of a high quality. Japan inspected Chinese vegetables 7,001 times in the first seven months of this year and found that only 0.5 per cent had a pesticide residue higher than Japanese standards.

"The Chinese Government is dedicated to food-safety supervision and inspection and has laid down proper laws and rules and founded sound technical standards and systems for inspections to ensure the safety of its food, especially food exports," he said.

The chairman said Japan's stricter inspection measures discriminate against China because they started with spinach and 99 per cent of Japan's spinach imports come from China. Japan imports between 40,000 and 50,000 tons of spinach each year, according to official Japanese statistics.

Cao said the stricter rules limit Japan's vegetable imports from China by slowing their passage through customs, raising inspection costs and reducing vegetable freshness due to the longer inspection time.

The inspection cost for Chinese vegetables has increased to 800,000 yen (US$6,830) per batch from 50,000 yen (US$427) per batch due to the increased samplings required.

Japan last year spent US$1.18 billion on vegetables imported from China.

But, in the first half of this year, China's exports of fresh vegetables to Japan dropped 19.42 per cent year-on-year to US$81.41 million, those of frozen vegetables dropped 22.47 per cent to US$9.12 million and those of salted vegetables fell 8.09 per cent to US$43.56 million.

Cao attributed the sharp falls to the Japanese Government's technical trade barriers, which he said have harmed Japanese consumers, importers and food processors as well as Chinese farmers and exporters.

Bao Junkai, director of the food import and export bureau of the State General Administration of Quality Supervision and Inspection and Quarantine, also criticized Japan for adopting "unnecessarily strict and irrational" inspection standards for certain vegetables.

He said a recent survey of the administration in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong Province showed that Chinese vegetables are safe and of a high quality under Chinese standards, United States standards, European standards and Japanese standards.



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