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Farmers the big winners from Japan trade deal

Irish farmers stand to be among the main winners from an agreement between the EU and Japan to conclude a deal to scrap tariffs on much of their bilateral trade.

The deal will see duties wiped out on over 90pc of EU agricultural exports.

For Irish consumers it could, eventually, bring down the price of Japanese cars as tariffs are phased out.

Exporters of meat and dairy as well as wines and other specialty foods, currently all highly protected in Japan, will see the biggest windfall, EU farm lobby Copa-Cogeca said in a statement

“It is good news for EU producers that this ambitious trade deal has been wrapped up,” said Martin Merrild, head of Copa.

That sentiment was echoed here in Ireland. Meat Industry Ireland’s Cormac Healy said new market access was vital, especially in the light of Brexit.

He said Japan was an important export destination for pigmeat, and exporters were working on building beef exports to the country.

With tariff rates due to drop to 9pc for beef over the 15 year period of the deal, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said the concessions were hugely significant. The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) said this could yield massive opportunities, with Japan importing 60pc of its food. “It is important that we grasp it,” said president John Comer.
The European carmakers’ lobby had called for at least seven years to phase out tariffs of up to 10pc on Japanese cars, and a senior EU official said they would “not be disappointed”.

Most EU food exports to Japan will see tariffs removed over time, although in some sensitive sectors, such as cheese and other dairy products, they will still be limited by quota.

Japan’s dairy Megmilk Snow Brand, one of three that dominate the market there, said it was preparing for a large impact on the domestic industry.

One detail yet to be ironed out is how complaints from businesses against a country’s application of the treaty will be dealt with. An EU trade deal with Canada was almost blocked last year due to concerns it would see big multinationals suing states in private courts.

That is among areas the so far largely symbolic EU-Japan “political agreement” signed yesterday leaves for negotiation.

“It is a strong message to the world,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a joint news conference with EU institutional chiefs Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker.

Fears of cheaper import competition for European carmakers and Japanese dairy producers were among the thorniest issues, but officials said the two sides were driven by a shared alarm at Donald Trump’s apparent shift towards an aggressive “America First” policy. (Additional reporting Reuters)

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