The presidents of the European Council and European Commission, Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso, are due to meet Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to with the aim of reaching an agreement on free trade of goods, services and investment, as well as rules on trade-related issues.
FoodDrinkEurope, COPA-COGECA and CELCAA, the EU agri-food chain organisations representing food and drink manufacturers European farmers, agri-cooperatives, and agri-food traders respectively, said in a joint statement that a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) could bring “significant economic benefits”.
Food manufacturing is the largest manufacturing sector in Europe, and according to the organisations, the whole EU agri-food chain generates €2.2 trillion a year, employing 33.6m Europeans.
“Therefore, the opportunities that a free trade agreement with Japan could offer both trading partners, as well as other potential beneficiaries, should be fully recognised in the general economic context,” they said.
They also pointed out that Japanese consumers were increasingly interested in non-traditional foods, and said the EU could not exploit the opportunity to provide European products unless current trade barriers were dismantled.
According to Eurostat figures, Japan is the fifth biggest export market for EU food and agricultural products, worth €4.7bn a year.
“If EU agri-food producers cannot respond to changing Japanese eating habits because of the existing trade barriers, this market potential will be definitively lost to other major agri-food exporters,” they wrote.
Specifically, a FTA that tackles both tariffs and regulatory barriers could open the Japanese market to European producers of pork, dairy, olive oil, wine, and confectionery, among other foods.
FoodDrinkEurope also cited figures from the European Commission, which found that one year on from a FTA between the EU and South Korea, exports of European pork had increased nearly 120% in a nine-month period, while dairy exports nearly doubled.