EU food exports to Japan are currently worth about €3.7bn a year, accounting for about 5% of total European food exports and nearly 8% of all exports from the European Union to Japan, FoodDrinkEurope said. The EU estimates a bilateral deal could create 400,000 jobs in the bloc, and boost Europe’s gross domestic product by almost 1%.
Welcoming the decision, the trade association’s president Jesús Serafín Pérez said: “This is a positive development, considering the benefits that an EU-Japan Agreement would bring to the EU economy as a whole and to the food and drink industry – the EU’s largest manufacturing industry – in particular.”
The European Union started talks about the possibility of a free trade deal with Japan in June this year, with the intention of bringing bilateral trade between the two markets to its full potential, including tariff concessions and improvements in the regulatory environment.
The EU Council’s decision to give the Commission a mandate to negotiate free trade terms with Japan clears a major hurdle in the process, and FoodDrinkEurope says it expects a deal to be concluded “in a relatively short period of time”, building on earlier talks.
FoodDrinkEurope said that a deal with Japan would provide benefits for producers of pork and dairy products, as seen in a similar free trade deal agreed with South Korea last year. However, the deal with Japan is also likely to benefit a range of other sectors, including the confectionery, olive oil and wine industries, among others, the trade association said.
Together, the Japanese and European markets account for about a third of the world’s economic output.