EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement Enters into Force

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU) and Japan entered into force on February 1, 2019.

The agreement creates the largest free trade area in the world. The EPA accounts for more than 40% of the world’s trade and almost 30% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The EPA reduces or eliminates tariffs on a wide range of agricultural, industrial, and other commodities traded between Japan and the EU. On February 1, the EU eliminated tariffs on fisheries products, wood products, and chemical products, and Japan eliminated tariffs on alcoholic beverages, industrial products, fisheries products, and wood products. Upon entry of the EPA into force, the EU liberalized roughly 75% of its imports from Japan (96% of tariff lines) and Japan liberalized approximately 91% of its imports from the EU (86% of tariff lines). Tariffs on automobiles, leather, footwear, and beef products will decrease gradually over the next 8 to 15 years.

Once the agreement is fully implemented, the EU will eliminate 99% of the customs duties applied to Japanese imports and Japan will eliminate 94% of the customs duties applied to imports from the EU.

Once fully implemented, annual trade between the EU and Japan could increase by ~36 billion euros (~US$40 billion).

Other key features of the EPA include:

  • Protection of geographical indications for more than 200 European food products imported to Japan, such as Irish whiskey and queso Manchego, and for Japanese products imported to the EU, such as Japanese sake;
  • Greater protection for intellectual property rights in trade between Japan and the EU; this includes both sides ratifying the Patent Law Treaty and Trademark Law Treaty, making information about patent and trademark applications publicly available, and ensuring equal protections for intellectual property;
  • Employing the same quality, production, and sanitary standards for products such as automobiles and textiles in order to increase transparency and predictability;
  • Provisions to allow EU companies equal footing with Japanese companies in procurement bidding for projects in services markets, such as the financial, e-commerce, transportation, and telecommunication sectors, in more than 54 cities in Japan;
  • Strengthening commitments on both sides to implement provisions on sustainable development and climate change outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement; and
  • A “mutual adequacy arrangement” focused on Internet and data protection rules that will create the world’s largest area of safe data flows; the new rules will eliminate discrepancies in the two sides’ data protection systems and establish safeguards to prevent access to personal data, except when necessary for security, and a complaints system to report data breaches.

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By SECURUS Associate Amy Elise Brister,