Toxic Trade News / 22 February 2007
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Japan "Twisting Arms" of Asian Neighbors to Take Toxic Waste
by gpsea, Infoshop News
22 February 2007 – Environmental organizations today condemned the Japanese government for conducting an aggressive campaign aimed at reversing international laws that currently strictly control and prohibit the export of hazardous waste. They presented new evidence that Japan is aggressively pursuing a retrograde strategy designed to make full use of its economic clout through deals in so-called bilateral “economic partnership agreements” (EPAs) in order to re-open the region to toxic waste trafficking.

The most recent revelation which betrays Japan’s intent to export its hazardous waste to other countries in the region comes from an uncovered contract solicitationiii made by the Japanese government in August 2006 to assess the use of bilateral agreements “for bidirectional movement of toxic wastes between Japan and Asian countries.” Contract for the said study was awarded by the Japanese government to Shinko Research Co. LTD. ( See Annex I, for more examples of the Japanese government’s intentions to encourage waste trafficking in the region).

Currently the Basel Convention requires all countries to take national responsibility for managing their own waste within their own national borders. It sets strict rules on exports that must take place, and has passed numerous decisions forbidding exports of hazardous wastes from rich to poorer countries. But in recent months it has become obvious that Japan intends to undermine or circumvent this Convention and seeks dumping grounds for its waste within the territories of neighboring Asian countries.

“Japan, while cynically throwing a lot of money around the Basel Convention and making developmental aid promises to developing countries, has in reality, become a cancer within the Convention, with an aim to destroy its original intent.” said Richard Gutierrez of the Basel Action Network’s Asia-Pacific office. “Here in the Asia region they are bent on “twisting the arms” of their developing country neighbors, pressing us to sign bilateral trade deals that force us to swap pollution for supposed development.”

Often involved in the EPA arrangements are unspoken quid-pro quos deals such as the Philippines promised access to domestic and nursing labor markets in Japan, or Thailand getting a package mass transit investment for Bangkok.

Indeed most frightening, is the fact that these bilateral agreements are already being negotiated at an alarming pace and, according to legal experts, may override or trump existing national and international laws against hazardous waste imports, especially the Basel Convention and its global Ban Amendment forbidding toxic waste exports to developing countries.

“It is now well known that Japan has no intention of ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment and is taking steps to prevent its neighbors from implementing it as well,” said Takeshi Yasuma of Citizens Against Chemicals Pollution in Tokyo. “Unfortunately these Japanese free trade agreements like JPEPA in the Philippines or JTEPA in Thailand reinforce an immoral strategy to reassert a waste colonialism which the Basel Convention had hoped to consign to the history books.”

“The intention on the part of Japan to dump its unwanted wastes on our country is obviously there. The evidence points to this direction. Japan is banking on the desperation of the governmen to improve trade status with Japan or to get developmental aid,” said Kittikhun Kittiaram of Greenpeace in Thailand. “But it is a contradiction to expect a nation to sacrifice its environmental health to become economically healthy. A destroyed environment and a toxic legacy is a devastating cost that will get paid sooner or later and it will be us and not Japan paying that bill when it comes due.”


Notes to Editor


More Recent Evidence of Japan’s Anti-Basel Actions and Activities

The Japanese policy for promoting waste trade is revealed also in a policy briefv by a Japanese government funded think tank IGES, entitled Networking International Recycling Zones in Asia. In it, a two leg strategy is projected to override the "cumbersome procedure" of the Basel Convention which "has become a barrier to international trade of recyclables." The strategy advocates utilizing the Japanese G8 project known as the “3R Initiative” which under the name of promoting recycling promotes the elimination of trade barriers to wastes and advocates the use of bilateral free trade agreements to eliminate trade barriers in waste.

Indeed the 3R Initiative, a brainchild of Japan and supported by the United States within the G8 framework has poured a lot of money into meetings with Asian governments. The meetings are organized under the cloak of recycling and re-use among other things to promote the 3R goal of eliminating trade barriers for waste. The Basel Convention is the world’s best known “barrier to trade in waste”.

Further, Japan has in fact begun launching free trade agreements known as Economic Partnership Agreements which shockingly call for lists of hazardous wastes to be added to the list of “goods” for which tariffs should be eliminated. These EPAs can have the effect of trumping over overriding a country’s Basel commitments. So far Japan has already concluded such agreements with Singapore, Mexico and Malaysia and are awaiting ratification of such an agreement in the Philippines (JPEPA). Pending or planned agreements with all ASEAN countries are in the works including with more advanced work having already been done with Brunei, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Japan has led the charge to ensure that the Basel Convention will not apply to the export of obsolete ships and instead has promoted a very weak international convention on ship recycling at the industry dominated International Maritime Organization. This new convention is devoid of any concern over environmental justice and transfers most of the pollution burden from developed to developing countries.

And finally just last November at the 8th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention in Nairobi, Japan was the only Party to the Convention that expressed its disagreement with the Basel Ban Amendment – a consensus decision made by the Parties in 1995 and supported by decisions in every year since then, which calls for a full ban on the export of all hazardous wastes from rich to poorer countries.

Meanwhile Japan continues to export hazardous electronic and other wastes and scraps to the Chinese port of Taizhou in contravention of the Basel Convention and Chinese law.

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