Japan weighs low-tariff import quota for European butter in EPA talks


Japan is considering proposing a low-tariff import quota for European butter and powdered skim milk to strike an economic partnership agreement for free trade with the European Union, Jiji Press learned Tuesday.

In the EPA negotiations, the EU has urged Japan to take drastic market-opening measures for dairy products, while Tokyo is seeking to clinch a deal by proposing the quota, informed sources said.

The two sides have started informal working-level discussions in Tokyo without deciding when to end the talks. They aim to produce a comprehensive draft agreement after examining tariffs on a wide range of products, including agricultural produce, processed food and automobiles, according to the sources.

Japan fully controls the imports of dairy products. Import tariffs are set at 35 percent for butter and 25 percent for powdered skim milk.

In the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, Japan agreed to set a low-tariff annual import quota of 60,000 tons for the two dairy products in total. The quota will be raised to 70,000 tons from the sixth year.

Japan is considering creating a similar quota in the proposed EPA with the EU that will be expanded in the future, informed sources said. The EU is likely to support such a quota.

Japan hopes that the EU will remove its import tariffs on Japanese automobiles. Whether this will happen depends on how far the Asian country will liberalize its agricultural market, the sources said.

Japan and the EU may hold ministerial talks if a broad EPA accord comes close to reality. The two sides aim to attain such an accord by the end of July.

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