At a business forum organised by Japan Co-operation Centre for the Middle East (Jetro) and Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (Jogmec), Jetro director general Hideki Sho told reporters: "After the (Fukushima) nuclear power accident, Qatar has strengthened the import restrictions on Japanese agriculture products.
“This must be lifted."
When asked what was holding back the negotiations, the official said the question should be addressed to Saudi Arabia, which is leading the talks on behalf of the Gulf region. Saudi Arabia is the biggest food importer in the GCC with around 70% of the total market.
The forum saw Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe deliver the keynote address, followed by a speech from Qatar’s Energy Minister HE Dr Mohamed bin Saleh al-Sada.
Bahrain, Qatar’s neighbour, lifted its restrictions the previous week, following discussions with the Japanese Premier.
Japan’s economy has slowly started to recover following the devastating tsunami and nuclear leak over two years ago. According to the Japanese Agriculture Ministry food exports, especially for fruit and meat, have risen 5% to $437 million in August this year, as the country gets back on its feet and fears of contamination subside.
But the two countries have far more at stake than food imports, as Japan is Qatar’s largest trading partner with a total volume of more than $37bn in 2012. The state is Japan’s second largest LNG supplier and the third largest supplier of crude oil.