The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and Japan has been finalised today, the European Commission has confirmed.

The successful conclusion of the final discussions on the EU-Japan EPA was announced today by Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono.

Building on the political agreement in principle reached during the EU-Japan Summit on July 6 of this year, negotiators from both sides have been tying up the last details in order to finish the legal text. This process is now finalised, a statement from the commission explained.

Commenting on the announcement, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, said: “This agreement represents the most significant and far-reaching deal ever concluded by the EU in agri-food trade.

It will provide huge growth opportunities for our agri-food exporters in a very large, mature and sophisticated market.

“We were successful in developing a model free-trade agreement that fits our export profile, while still delivering a mutually beneficial agreement with our partner.

“This shows the EU as a global leader and standard-setter in shaping international trade and its rules – a concrete example of the EU harnessing globalisation to benefit our citizens. EU agri-food exports create high-quality jobs, most of them in rural areas,” he added.

The EPA is set to remove the vast majority of the €1 billion of duties paid annually by EU companies exporting to Japan, as well as a number of long-standing regulatory barriers, according to the commission.

It will also open up the Japanese market of 127 million consumers to key EU agricultural exports and will increase EU export opportunities in a range of other sectors, it added.

With regards to agricultural exports from the EU, the agreement will, in particular:
  • Scrap duties on many cheeses such as gouda and cheddar (which currently are at 29.8%), as well as on wine exports (currently at 15% on average);
  • Allow the EU to increase its beef exports to Japan substantially, while on pork there will be duty-free trade in processed meat and almost duty-free trade for fresh meat;
  • Ensure the protection in Japan of more than 200 high-quality European agricultural products, so called Geographical Indications (GIs), and will also ensure the protection of a selection of Japanese GIs in the EU.

The EU and Japan will now start the legal verification of the text as a result of this announcement.

Following this, it is hoped that the commission will then submit the agreement for the approval of the European Parliament and EU member states – aiming for its entry into force before the end of the current mandate of the European Commission in 2019.

News of this announcement follows on from the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, conducting a trade mission to both Japan and South Korea in November.