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Experts praise EU/Japan EPA

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EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan has hailed it as “the most significant and far-reaching agreement ever concluded in agriculture”. It will scrap mutual duties on meat imports and remove other non-tariff barriers to trade and investment, he said.

The European Commission said the agreement, expected to come into force in 2019, would increase exports of goods and services by up to 24% and almost triple European processed food exports to Japan. Notably, it will open up the Japanese market to EU agricultural exports, cutting the current 38.5% beef tariff to 27.5% when the agreement comes into force, followed by a further reduction to 9% after 15 years, giving market access to 50,500 tonnes of EU beef.

On pork, the EU’s main agricultural export to Japan, a complex import system plus a 4.3% average tariff will be changed to “practically free access”, the Commission said. Meanwhile, processed pork, upon which Japan currently slaps an 8.5% tariff, will become duty-free from day one [of enforcement].

Meanwhile, Japan will get a full liberalisation to the EU market, including for Wagyu beef, said EU farm body Copa-Cogeca said. The Japanese pig meat sector will also be safeguarded during the liberalisation phase by “volume-based safeguard clauses”, according to the latest Commission negotiating report.

As it stands, as regards the trade in meat, the EU stands to benefit in export earnings far more than Japan. According to EU statistical agency Eurostat, the EU exported €1.388 billion- worth of meat and meat products to Japan in 2016, a big rise over the €1.142bn recorded in 2015. Japan’s exports to the EU are far smaller, but growing; in 2016, the EU imported €11.7m-worth of meat and edible meat offal from Japan, a substantial increase over the €8.7m figure for 2015.

Under the EPA, Japan will also recognise 205 European Geographical Indications (GIs), meaning these products must be sold in Japan under the corresponding name. EU farm association Copa-Cogeca president Thomas Magnusson said the deal would protect traditional products including Tyrolean Speck (bacon) from Austria, and Jambon d’Ardennes ham from Belgium.

The EPA will also reduce non-tariff barriers to trade such as sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, although both sides’ high standards will be maintained.

This will create “a more predictable regulatory environment for EU exports”, the Commission said, adding that the simplified approval, clearance and import processes will neither lower safety standards nor require member states to change policy on hormones or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), with both the EU and Japan forbidding hormone-treated beef.

The Commission hopes to conclude a final text by 31 December 2017, then, after legal revision and translation into all EU languages, to submit it for approval by EU member states and the European Parliament in 2018, to become operational in 2019.

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