Food & Agriculture

Despite their global presence, European food and agricultural products have traditionally had difficulties penetrating the Japanese market. Although they could be found in regular supermarkets, the selection available was, with a few exceptions, limited to only a fraction of the potential. The situation was better in upscale and gourmet specialist shops, where price matters less.

With the implementation and entry into force of the EU-Japan EPA, the situation has very much changed. Already on the first day of the agreement, 1 February 2019, supermarkets could be seen marketing EU wine using the EPA as a marketing tool. Newly released trade statistics show a dramatic increase in imports of European food into Japan. This is however not to say that it has been without its problems. Many importers experienced difficulties with the application of the rules of origin, and in particular regarding how to certify origin. Much addition information was requested by the Japanese authorities, despite the use of the statement on origin issued by the exporter. It is therefore with great relief that EBC can report that the situation today is very different. Both the Japanese authorities and the European Commission have worked hard to improve the situation. The EBC hopes that with these changes the rate of usage will further increase and that agricultural trade between the two regions will continue to expand, and also that this can be an example of excellence when looking at other areas to improve.

For the potential to be fully reached though, Japan needs to improve the situation regarding the administration of Tariff Rates Quotas (TRQs). As we have now entered the third annual allocation period there are still outstanding issues. Some importers have been asked to show sales contract corresponding to the TRQ volume applied for. The EBC believes this is very burdensome and difficult, and asks of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery (MAFF) to come up with a simpler solution. Moreover, the EBC believes that this is the reason for some of the categories not being used or underused. On the same topic, but on the other side of the spectrum are TRQs that are completely used. For some of these TRQs we are seeing companies or individuals that are not active in the corresponding sectors.

Apart from tariffs, various non-tariff food-related issues also impact the availability of European products in Japan. For example, Japan remains “out of sync” with other countries, in that it has still not approved a majority of food additives and enzymes declared safe by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Sanitary and phytosanitary issues are of course included in the EPA. It should, however, be stated that the agreement currently only includes very general wording on what benefits suppliers and importers can foresee. It is therefore important that the two authorities continue to work in this field to improve the current situation, where duplicate testing has to be done for imported goods due to lack of harmonisation or mutual recognition of approvals of test methods.

The EBC is very keen to work closely with all relevant parties in the Government of Japan and the European Commission to help bring about effective and positive change to support the goal of providing consumers in Japan with a much wider variety of safe, high-quality food. We very much hope that the EU-Japan EPA will ensure that tariffs are abolished, standards harmonised and the market authorisations of both regions mutually recognised. The EBC Food & Agriculture Committee firmly believes this can be achieved without compromising food safety. Furthermore, it will lead to more choice in supermarkets, stimulating healthy competition in the food and agricultural sectors of both zones, and to European food becoming more accessible, something we know Japanese consumers would appreciate.

Key issues and recommendations

Upcoming committee meeting schedule

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2022
DATETIMELOCATION
TBC09:00~EBC