Agriculture and Food Safety
The EU and Japan share a vision of agriculture aiming not only at feeding people but also at preserving the landscape, the environment and traditions. As such, the EU is actively engaging in meaningful exchanges with Japan bilaterally, in high-level meetings in Tokyo and Brussels, and multilaterally, in the WTO committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, the World Organisation for Animal Health, CODEX Alimentarius Commission, Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, and agricultural negotiations within the WTO framework.
In addition to these fora, agriculture and food safety are an important part of the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations which were initiated in 2013.
Open trade is of utmost importance to the European agricultural sector since the farmers' and producers' livelihood depends on it. European producers are well recognised all over the world for their high quality food and beverages.
Japan is a major food importer and its food market is one of the biggest ones in the world. However, high entry barriers and high tariffs maintained on products of export interest to the EU limit the variety of products that EU producers can export to Japan. This results in a limited range of European food products on offer in Japan and also in high consumer prices.
In the FTA negotiations with Japan the EU's aim is to increase transparency and to create clear regulatory frameworks so that European companies will have easier access to the market and that the EU market share increases to its rightful level.
Japan itself has recently become more focused on improving the competitiveness of its agricultural sector and increasing its exports of agricultural and foodstuff products. As Japan begins to appreciate the possibilities for economic growth that trade opportunities offer also to the agricultural sector it will discover that gaining access to the markets of others is not a one way road. Instead of shielding the agricultural sector from trade opening, well designed agricultural policies need to be in place so that the agricultural sector can compete and reap the benefits of the trade opening on its own merits.
In case of the EU, the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, and the major reforms undertaken since the 1980's have enabled the EU to participate in major trade negotiations and they continue to do so also today.
Approval of food additives
Food Safety is one of the major topics of the FTA negotiation between the EU and Japan. The Japanese list of food additives needs a major update and alignment with international standards. In December 2002, the Japanese government identified 46 priority food additives "whose safety is globally confirmed and which are widely used outside Japan". Although these substances have already been evaluated by the Joint WHO/FAO Expert Committee on Food Additives and are therefore approved and used in many countries including EU Member States and the US, the Japanese Government maintains that these substances should be evaluated individually on the basis of specific Japanese criteria. While after more than 10 years, the approval process of the 46 priority additives is close to being completed, a significant number of other substances need to be approved before they can be used in Japan. Until this happens, many top quality and perfectly safe European food products cannot enter the Japanese market.
Trade in beef and beef products
Until recently, an issue of concern was related to European beef exports to Japan. EU beef was banned from the Japanese market for more than ten years. But starting from 2013, Japan has lifted its ban on imports of beef from France, the Netherlands and Ireland and more recently from Poland. All this sends an encouraging signal to other EU Member States seeking to apply to export beef to Japan, and whose equally high sanitary status has already been internationally recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). As the EU and Japan are engaged in the FTA negotiations, this development shows that non-tariff barriers can be overcome on the Japanese market.
Information related to the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power station
EU Measures on import of food and feed originating in or consigned from Japan
The Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 322/2014 of 28 March 2014 imposes special conditions for the import of feed and food originating in or consigned from Japan following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power station. The regulation, which has replaced the previous Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 996/2013, is available at the following link.
The following are excluded from the application of the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 322/2014:
(a) Products which left Japan before 28 March2011;
(b) Products which have been harvested and/or processed before 11 March 2011;
(c) Alcoholic beverages falling within CN codes 2203 to 2208;
(d) Personal consignments of feed and food of animal origin which are covered by Article 2 of Commission Regulation (EC) 206/2009(7)
(e) Personal consignments of feed and food other than of animal origin which are non-commercial and destined to a private person for personal consumption and use only. In case of doubt, the burden of proof lies with the recipient of the consignment. For more information see the following link.