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PH lifts ban on fish imports from Japan

The Philippine government has lifted the ban on the importation of several fish species from Japan as a “gesture of goodwill” in line with the ongoing visit of President Duterte and his Cabinet members to Japan this week.

But the move seemed to be an offer of quid pro quo as the Department of Agriculture sought the approval of agricultural trade agreements, including the long-standing proposal to lower tariffs on local fruits such as bananas and pineapple.

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Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said on his Facebook page that the government had decided to lift the 7-year-old ban on the importation of fish species like cherry salmon, sand lance, Japanese dace and ayu from the Fukushima prefecture, “which strained PH-Japan agriculture and fisheries trade.”

“I consider the ban as just a bureaucratic gobbledygook and an overreaction to an issue which did not really affect the Philippines,” he said. “It was a ridiculous bureaucratic exercise for the simple reason that the fish species included in the ban are not imported by the Philippines anyway.”

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He said this was the Duterte administration’s way of “showing goodwill to the Japanese government as it moves to promote the entry of more Philippines agriculture products to Japan” and as the Philippine government renewed its call for lower import duties.

The appeal to lower tariffs imposed on Philippine fruit exports has long been pending, but Piñol earlier said local fruit growers were hoping negotiations would be hastened given the official involvement of the President on the issue and his friendship with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Philippine bananas are currently slapped a 2.5-percent tariff during the off-season for Japanese fruits and a high of 18 percent during that country’s fruit harvesting season.

Other Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Indonesia enjoy zero tariffs on their banana produce in Japan. Latin American countries including Costa Rica and Ecuador also enjoy zero tariffs for their pooled quota of 1,000 tons a year.

In the meantime, the DA was able to seal a supply deal for chicken products in Fiji following a positive discussion with the agency’s counterparts in Japan, although the volume of initial shipments had yet to be determined.

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TAGS: Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, fish imports, Japan
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