A free trade agreement that was signed by the European Union and Japan late last year officially came into force on February 1, making it the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world.
Negotiated since 2013, The agreement brings together more than 630 million people and nearly a third of global GDP, covering almost all trade between the EU and Japan. According to the European Union side, the deal should, in particular, benefit, European agriculture as a result of the massive exports that are expected.
85% of the EU’s agri-food products, including wine which has a current tariff of 15%, will be able to enter Japan without tariffs but are still in certain cases subject to transitional periods.
Rice, a highly symbolic product for Japan, has been excluded from the agreement. The Japanese government is left out Feta, Austrian Tiroler Speck, Belgian Ardennes Ham, and Polish vodka. Negotiations have been particularly complex on dairy products, but the agreement will eliminate very high tariffs on several kinds of cheese, which currently carries a 29.8% tax, with a transition period of up to 15 years.
Brussels has granted free access to the European market for the Japanese car industry, but only after a transition period of seven years.
The EU-Japan trade agreement will also include a chapter on sustainable development and an explicit reference to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
The deal received a ringing endorsement from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker who hailed the deal as a powerful symbol of international trade and cooperation, saying, “Europe and Japan (have) sent a message to the world on the future of open and fair trade”, before adding that it is important for the world to see such an important development in international trade relations become a reality at a time when multilateralism is being challenged by the isolationist policies of US President Donald J. Trump.