Cheaper Japanese cars and European cheese are on the way as the EU’s trade agreement after the European Commission announced on April 18 that it had cleared the way for an Economic Partnership Agreement with Tokyo.
The two sides have agreed on the final details of the agreement, according to EU Trade Commission Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, who appeared outwardly pleased that the bloc managed to negotiate its largest-ever trade agreement with the world’s third-largest economy.
“Japan is one of the largest economies in the world. Together, the EU and Japan have 600 million people and one third of the world’s gross domestic product. This agreement is extremely important for both sides,” said Malmström. ”It will be cheaper to trade Japanese products…for European companies, it will be easier to export to the Japanese market because custom fees will no longer apply.”
EU Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen pointed to the benefits the agreement will grant to Finnish consumers and businesses as Japanese cars will be cheaper in the long term, while the Finnish forest industry can get a boost by being allowed into the lucrative Japanese market.
“For the forest industry, it is now easier to export wood products to Japan,” Katainen said from the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg, where this month’s plenary is taking place.
The agreement will eliminate or sharply reduce duties on agricultural products in which the EU has a major export interest by ensuring duty-free trade with processed pork meat – the EU’s main agricultural export to Japan – and almost duty-free trade for fresh pork meat exports.
Tariffs on beef will be cut from 38.5% to 9% over 15 years for a significant volume of beef products. The tariffs on wine (presently at 15%) will be scrapped from day one, as will tariffs for other alcoholic drinks.
Europe’s highly profitable cheese exporting industry, which is already the top seller of cheese products on the Japanese market, will see the crippling duties on many hard cheeses such as Gouda and Cheddar (which currently are at 29.8%) eliminated and a duty-free quota will be established for fresh cheeses such as Mozzarella.
The EU-Japan agreement will also scrap today’s customs duties for processed agricultural products such as pasta, chocolates, cocoa powder, candies, confectionary, biscuits, starch derivatives, prepared tomatoes, and tomato sauce. There will also be significant quotas for EU exports – either duty-free or with reduced duties – for malt, potato starch, skimmed milk powder, butter, and whey.
The EU-Japan agreement also recognises the special status and offers protection on the Japanese market to more than 200 Geographical Indications (GIs) products. These products will be given the same level of protection in Japan as they currently have in Europe.
According to the Commission, the EU-Japan agreement can come into force at the end of the year as the political will exists from both parties. “If there are no complications and if the Japanese Parliament also gives the green light, the agreement can come into force at the end of the year or at the beginning of next year,” said Malmstrom.
Now the agreement text is complete and must be approved by EU countries and the European Parliament. The time, however, the EU-Japan agreement will not have to be endorsed by national parliaments, on a bid to avoid obstacles that were met during the EU-Canada CETA agreement ratification, when the Walloon Parliament in Belgium raised objections at the very last minute, causing great delays to the overall process.