By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Icelandic news source IceNews reports that the governments of Japan and Iceland are negotiating a trade agreement that also would include exports to Japan of whaling products. The agreement will certainly attract much attention from the environmental groups, and NGOs world-wide.
Japan does however have both cultural and culinary appetites for whale meat and will go to lengths to obtain these products which are a valuable commodity in Japan. A new trade agreement with Iceland could provide a means for sources that would have otherwise become increasingly restricted by International actions
For many years Japan has engaged in de facto commercial whaling under the pretext of engaging in Research Whaling, but in March of 2014 the International Court of Justice ruled against Japan’s pretexts and ordered that “Japan must revoke any extant authorization, permit or license to kill, take or treat whales” in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Japan initially stated it would recognize the ICJ’s judgment but proceeded to launch a “reviewed” research hunt. In response, the International Whaling Commission voted and concluded in September of 2014 that “Japan should abide by an International Court of Justice ruling.” Japan then vowed to commercially hunt whales in the Antarctic.
Iceland is now seeking a free trade agreement with Japan to improve economic growth on the island. Foreign Minister Gunnar Sveinsson stated that the two nations had been trading for decades and that both wished to deepen their trade relationship for commonalities and durable goods.
Over seventy percent of the Iceland’s exports to Japan were fishery commodities while Japan’s offerings consisted of mostly vehicles and machinery.
Foreign Minister Sveinsson indicated that both nations need to respect international law and be transparent to facts that indicate whale stocks are not threatened.
Sveinsson and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida agreed several days ago in a meeting that whaling was “deeply rooted” in both nations’ cultures. The two ministers claimed that the international criticism of their hunting practices were misunderstanding or rooted in politics that others did not understand. They voiced the importance of showing the world community that methods of whale hunts do not harm stocks or the ecosystem.
It remains to be seen what the final trade agreement, if approved, encompasses. But what is clear is that without concrete international sanctions against both nations with regard to whaling restrictions, the will of Japan to obtain a source of their prized commodity will be actively pursued.
By Darren Smith
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