EU set to abolish sake, green tea tariffs

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The European Union is working toward abolishing tariffs on green tea and Japanese sake imported from Japan as part of negotiations for the Japan-EU economic partnership agreement, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

 The details of when to abolish them will be decided later, according to sources.

 The EU’s main focus in the EPA negotiations is the abolition of high tariffs on cheese produced in Europe. The latest moves are apparently aimed at gaining concessions from Japan.

 The EU imposes a tariff of up to 3.2 percent on Japanese green tea, and several yen per liter of sake.

 Japan’s total export value for green tea was ¥11.5 billion in 2016, of which exports to the EU accounted for ¥2.3 billion, or 20 percent of the total. Total exports of sake were worth ¥15.5 billion in 2016, of which those to the EU reached ¥1 billion, or 6 percent.

 Japanese food is having a boom in popularity in Europe, and the removal of tariffs could lead to an expansion of Japanese products to the region.

 The EU is pressing Japan for the early abolition of tariffs — some as high as 30 percent — on soft cheeses like Camembert cheese, which is popular in Japan.

 Under the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact that Japan officially agreed to in February 2016, Japan keeps the tariffs on these cheeses unchanged to protect domestic producers, and has maintained a cautious stance in regard to the EU’s demand.

 On the other hand, Japan is considering abolishing or lowering tariffs on European products including blue cheese, powdered cheese, shredded cheese used for pizza and other foods, and whey, an ingredient in nutritional supplements.

 The import volume of these products is small and Japan sees such measures as not having much impact on domestic production. It also accepted the abolition of tariffs on them in the TPP.

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