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The European Union (EU) and Japan have approved an historic economic treaty that promises European food and wine producers significant improvements in their access to the Japanese market.
Approved by the European Parliament in mid-December, the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement will eliminate or significantly reduce duties and tariffs imposed by Japan on many food and wine products produced in EU countries. Specifically, the Agreement will eliminate duties on many cheese products, which are currently taxed at rates as high as 30-40 percent, and end an average 15 percent duty imposed on wine imported from the EU. The Agreement will also increase or remove altogether current quantity limits applicable to certain EU-produced meat products, including beef and pork.
Finally, the Agreement recognises the special status given to EU-produced products from approved Geographic Indications (GIs), and will make it illegal to sell imitation versions of those products in Japan. This aspect is viewed as providing a significant market opportunity for producers of high-quality specialty food products from specific geographic regions (for example, Roquefort cheese or Chianti wine), while also helping to assure Japanese consumers of the authenticity of the specialty food products that they purchase.
Negotiations that led to the development of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement began in 2013. The final Agreement was approved by both houses of Japan’s National Diet in late November and early December. Although the recent approval by the EU Parliament must still be ratified by EU Member States, the terms of the Agreement are scheduled to take effect as of 1 February 2019.
According the European Commission, Japan is the fourth largest market for EU agricultural exports in the world. However, many of the concerns addressed in the Economic Partnership Agreement had created significant trade barriers for EU producers, and hampered their ability to sell their products to Japan’s nearly 130 million consumers. The EU-Japan Agreement effectively creates a trading zone that includes over 600 million consumers, constituting nearly one-third of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Additional information about the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement is provided in a summary prepared by the EU, which is available here.