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Iceland eager to reach free trade agreement with Japan

Japan Times, Japan

Iceland eager to reach free trade agreement with Japan

12 November 2014

Kyodo/Iceland Foreign Minister Gunnar Sveinsson said his country is eager to reach a free trade agreement with Japan, calling on Tokyo to take “new steps” in this direction.

“We have been doing business and trade for a long time” with Japan, Sveinsson said in an interview Tuesday in Tokyo. “It is time to take some new steps in this relation” as the two island nations have “so much in common.”

Fisheries products accounted for more than 70 percent of Iceland’s total exports to Japan in 2013, while Japan’s exports to Iceland consist mainly of automobiles and machinery components.

On whaling, which Japan and Iceland pursue despite opposition from conservationists, Sveinsson said both countries need to do things “by the book, respect international laws and show people the evidence or facts that we are not harming stocks.”

During a meeting Monday, Sveinsson and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida agreed that whaling is “deeply rooted in the cultures of both countries.”

“Criticism that we are facing is often based on misunderstanding and some politics that we don’t understand,” Sveinsson said. “So if we are going to keep on whaling, we have to teach and show we are doing it in a way that is not harming the stocks or the ecosystem.”

The pursuit of whaling has become increasingly difficult since the International Whaling Commission approved a resolution in September seeking tougher procedures for so-called research whaling. The resolution followed the International Court of Justice’s ruling in March in a case lodged by Australia that ordered Japan to halt research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean as it was not being conducted for scientific purposes.