Japan has opened its markets to imports of beef and beef products from the European Union (EU) for the first time in 12 years.
The country began accepting imports of beef under the age of 30 months of age from France and the Netherlands on 1 February 2012, and is currently considering applications from other member states.
Commenting on the move yesterday (6 February), EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht, health and consumer policy commissioner Tonio Borg, and agriculture and rural development commissioner Dacian Cioloş said: “This is a positive first step, although it took longer than had been desirable. The Japanese decision sends an encouraging signal to other member states seeking to apply to export beef to Japan, and whose equally high level of food safety has already been internationally recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The EU is looking forward to seeing this reflected when this welcome opening by Japan will be widened to also include other EU member states.”
The commissioners added that the opening of the Japanese market should send an “important signal” to the EU’s trading partners in Asia and worldwide that EU beef is safe and “imports of EU beef should resume quickly”.
At the same time, the EU has agreed to restart the process for authorising imports of Japanese beef into the EU. This process was halted in 2010, due to outbreaks of food-and-mouth disease (FMD) in Japan, but the country has since been able to eradicate the disease and now has FMD-free status with the OIE.
The EU’s Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) yesterday endorsed a proposal to add Japan to a list of non-EU countries authorised to import beef into the EU and approved a Japanese programme for monitoring cattle and beef for substances and residues. These measures will authorise imports of Japanese beef and beef products into the EU once they are published in the Official Journal of the EU, which is expected in spring 2013.
The agreements come ahead of negotiations on an EU-Japan free trade agreement (FTA). The EU Council gave the EU Commission the green light to start negotiations with Japan in November, with the mandate that negotiators pull the plug after one year if Japan does not live up to its commitments on removing non-tariff barriers.
Japan is currently the EU’s second-biggest trading partner in Asia, after China. In 2011, total EU exports to Japan reached €49 billion, with agriculture one of the major export sectors. An EU-Japan FTA could increase EU total exports to Japan by 32.7%, while Japanese exports to the EU would increase by 23.5%.
EU officials say Japan would offer considerable opportunities for EU beef exports, because about half of the country’s total beef consumption is met with beef imports.