By A. M. Newhall, BASC Research Assistant
In the wake of Japan negotiating multiple trade agreements with Australia and India in terms of imports and exports, one must wonder how deeply the ongoing nuclear crisis will hinder their standing in the global economic market. On March 29, 2011 Japan pleaded at a World Trade Organization conference for consumer markets not to ban their products, a plea that came on the heels of New Zealand and other states experiencing an export boost in Asian markets “as buyers shun Japanese products on concern they may be tainted with radiation.”
Near the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in the northern region of Japan, radiation has been detected in the ocean water, in groundwater, in the soil, and on crops. This will directly affect the fishing and seaweed industries and undoubtedly hinder Japan’s dairy exports. According to CNN, “radiation gets into the milk because it falls on grass eaten by cows.” Consumer concerns have been dismissed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which asserts it is safe to drink brownish milk with low quantities of radiation. However, given that Japan’s domestic milk and other produce may now have a tangy uranium flavor, the Japanese government may be more receptive to Australia’s previous demands that Japan abolish its tariffs on its beef, wheat, sugar, and dairy products.
Furthermore, one wonders if the recent troubles and ongoing criticism centered on Japan’s outdated nuclear reactors has likewise made India have second thoughts about their recent trade negotiations with Japan. A press release stated, “Japan and India launched negotiations in June on a pact that would allow Tokyo to export its cutting-edge nuclear technology to the energy-hungry South Asian nation, a hotly contested market for atomic plants.” Whether Japan’s “cutting-edge nuclear technology” will still be as fervently desired or favorably viewed remains to be seen.
Ultimately, the economic impact of this multi-pronged disaster will be one more burden for the Japanese people to bear in the years ahead. Obviously, this disaster may accelerate the removal of Japan’s tariffs on imports at a much faster rate than previously forecast and perhaps alter the nation’s views about free trade. Indeed, the disaster has resulted in the European Union proposing a free trade agreement with Japan that “would be the most significant trade deal signed by the EU with a single country.” In short, the tragedy unfolding in Japan may greatly affect free trade in the Asia-Pacific region.
(Photo from “EPA boosts radiation monitoring after low levels found in milk” by the CNN Wire Staff.)