EU agri-food to ‘benefit most’ from trade deal with Japan

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

EU finalises its biggest bilateral trade agreement with Japan ©Creditbatak1/iStock
EU finalises its biggest bilateral trade agreement with Japan ©Creditbatak1/iStock

Related tags: Eu trade commissioner, International trade, Eu

European agri-food is one of the sectors expected to benefit most from the free trade deal that was finalised with Japan today (8 December).

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono revealed that the final discussions on the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement have now been concluded. The process of writing the legal text and negotiating the “last details”​ has been finalised, it was confirmed in a press conference this morning.

The EPA is the largest bilateral trade agreement ever negotiated with the EU. It will open “huge market opportunities”​ for both sides as well as strengthen cooperation between Europe and Japan in areas such as sustainable development, the European Commission said. For the first time in EU trade deals, the agreement stipulates a specific commitment to the Paris climate agreement.

"This agreement enshrines common values and principles, and brings tangible benefits to both sides while safeguarding each other's sensitivities,"​ EC President Jean-Claude Juncker said having confirmed the conclusion of this process in a phone call with Prime Minister Abe earlier today.  

Malmström added: "The EU and Japan share a common vision for an open and rules-based world economy that guarantees the highest standards. Today, we are sending a message to other countries about the importance of free and fair trade, and of shaping globalisation. The potential of this deal is enormous.”

The deal will now be submitted to the European Parliament and Member States for ratification. The EPA is expected to come into effect next year.

European agri-food a big winner

Europe’s food sector is expected to be a chief beneficiary of the new trading relationship with Japan, the Commission indicated.

The agreement will provide European food exporters with access to Japan’s 127m consumers.

In particular, the agreement abolishes duties on cheeses, such as Gouda and Cheddar, which currently stand at 29.8%. Wine exporters will also gain tariff-free access to Japan. Currently, duties of 15% apply to European wine imports into the Asian country.

On meat, the EC said that the agreement will enable the EU to “substantially”​ increase its beef exports to Japan, while in pork there will be duty-free trade in processed products and “almost”​ duty-free trade in fresh products.

Japan has also agreed to recognise Europe’s system of Geographical Indications (GIs), which protect around 200 food product designations, such as Parma ham or Stilton cheese. This is considered a key priority for European negotiators working on international trade deals.

"This agreement represents the most significant and far-reaching deal ever concluded by the EU in agri-food trade,”​ commissioner for agriculture and rural development Phil Hogan said.

“It will provide huge growth opportunities for our agri-food exporters in a very large, mature and sophisticated market. We were successful in developing a model free trade agreement that fits our export profile, while still delivering a mutually beneficial agreement with our partner. This shows the EU as a global leader and standard-setter in shaping international trade and its rules – a concrete example of the EU harnessing globalisation to benefit our citizens. EU agri-food exports create high-quality jobs, most of them in rural areas."

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