Stepping stone for a trade agreement? Bahrain becomes first GCC state to lift import ban on Japanese food after nuclear disaster
Bahrain has become the first country in the Gulf to lift restrictions on food imports from Japan imposed following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.
It was taken during a two-day visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinz Abe to Bahrain, which ended yesterday.
Key agreements were signed to enhance co-operation between Manama and Tokyo, said Japanese Foreign Affairs Ministry Press secretary Kuni Sato during a Press conference at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa.
"Japan welcomes Bahrain's decision to lift restrictions on its food imports upon mutually decided terms," she said.
"Bahrain is the first country in the GCC to lift the ban on food imports and we welcome the decision."
Following a major earthquake in Japan, a 15-metre tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling of three Fukushima Daiichi reactors, causing a nuclear accident on March 11.
It was the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, the 1986 Soviet reactor explosion which sent radioactive dust across much of Europe.
It also triggered a ban on food imports due to fears they could be contaminated.
However, it excluded imports given the all-clear by Japanese authorities, and items produced and prepared for shipment before the reactor was damaged.
Ms Sato said tangible progress was made in political, economic, cultural and other areas when the Japanese Premier met His Majesty King Hamad and His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.
"The prime ministers of both countries agreed on 2+2 meetings, which means ministers from defence and foreign affairs will hold comprehensive security dialogue to address key issues," she explained.
She said the meetings would start with two high-ranking officials from both sides to discuss maritime security, promote defence exchanges, non-proliferation, anti-terrorism and disaster relief among other issues.
Ms Sato said Bahrain was also keen to promote bilateral co-operation in the field of education, science and technology.
This included bringing Japanese experts to Bahrain and increasing the number of students who study in Japan.
She said both sides also discussed Tokyo's policy to invite trainees from the Middle East in exchange for Japanese instructors, which will cover a total of 20,000 people over the next five years.
Meanwhile, on the business front, Japan pushed for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the GCC to boost trade ties.
"Negotiations from the Japan-GCC FTA were not active for some time and it was decided to activate it. Both countries have agreed to it," said Ms Sato.
She stressed the importance of increasing co-operation between small and medium-sized enterprises in natural pearl research and solar thermal energy.
Japan also agreed to expand its co-operation in infrastructure construction in Bahrain such as Bapco's refinery projects, waste water treatment, Tubli Bay rehabilitation and earth observation satellite.
Another key issue agreed on was waiving visas for Japanese and Bahraini diplomatic or government passport holders.
Four agreements were also signed in the fields of agriculture, health, financial intelligence and pharmaceuticals.