The Japan-Europe free trade agreement will save the Catalan agri-food industry €12.5 Mn

  • This bilateral free trade agreement that will come into force in 2019 has eliminated or is phasing out tariffs, benefiting key Catalan exports sectors such as wine, cava and pork.
  • In 2017, the Catalan agri-food industry exported food and drinks to Japan to the tune of €341 Mn through 576 companies - a 40% increase in export companies over the last five years.
  • Japan is a priority market for Catalonia's external action, as the second-largest destination for Catalan agri-food products outside the EU, after China, and the seventh-largest worldwide.


In December 2017, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker announced that the final details of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and Japan had been agreed upon. This globally significant agreement creates a free trade area with a market of some 640 million consumers, which accounts for one third of world gross domestic product (GDP). 


The bilateral agreement will be officially signed this week, and will entail very tangible benefits for the Catalan agri-food sector. Crucially, it eliminates many of the current tariffs between the EU and the fourth-largest world economy, after the US, the euro zone and China. The treaty will therefore result in huge savings for the Catalan food industry - approximately €12.5 Mn according to data from Prodeca's Knowledge and Strategy Area, which held an informative seminar on post-treaty market opportunities in September 2017. 

Main agri-food tariff reductions: 

Wine and cava 15% 0% immediate
Alcoholic drinks 15% 0% immediate
Pork (meat) Complex (average 4,3%) Almost 0%
Pork preparations (dried sausages) 8,5% 0% over 15 years
Beef (meat) 38,5% 9% over 15 anys
Hard cheese 29,8% or more 0% over 15 years
Soft cheese 29,8% or more 0% over 15 years
Squid 3,5% - 5% 0% over 10 years
Tuna 3,5% 0% over 5 years
Pasta 30 Yen/Kg 0% over 10 years
Chocolate 10% 0% over 10 years
Cocoa-based products 28 – 29,8% 0% over 10 years
Sweets 25% 0% over 10 years
Biscuits 13 – 20,4% 0% over 10 years
Refined salt 0,5 Yen / Kg 0% over 10 years

SOURCE: European Commission


Most favoured sectors  

The wine and cava sector stands to benefit first, as tariffs will be immediately lifted when the agreement comes into force in 2019, dropping from 15% to 0%. 

Likewise, the pork sector, which currently pays an average of 4.3% on tariffs, will begin paying practically 0%. Tariffs that are currently high in other sectors, such as beef and cheese (38.5% and 29.8% respectively), will be phased out over the next 15 years to almost 0%

This will also apply to Catalan exports of pasta, chocolate, cocoa products, sweets and biscuits over the next ten years.


Japan, a strategic market for Catalonia 

Japan is the second-largest destination for Catalan agri-food products outside the EU, after China, and the seventh-largest worldwide. In 2017, Catalonia exported 105,000 thousand tonnes of agri-food products worth €341 Mn to Japan. This is an increase in both volume and value of more than 110% over the last five years. In the same period, the number of companies that export rose by 40%, reaching 576 in 2017.

Japan is a highly attractive market that offers enormous opportunities. It is worth noting that it imports 60% of its food and drink, and has a potential market of 126.75 million people. Furthermore, it is the fourth-largest market for food spending, with predicted growth of almost 18% over the next ten years. 

This is why Japan is a priority country for the Catalan Regional Government's agri-food external action, in line with its Strategic External Action and European Union Relations Plan (2015-2018). One clear example of this is the high number of Catalan agri-food companies that will be attending FOODEX JAPAN, through Prodeca, in Tokyo in March 2019. Foodex is the biggest food trade fair in the Asia-Pacific region and is an excellent way to get onto the Japanese market. Japan has also been one of the guest markets at several Business Forums (sectoral meetings between companies and importers). The upcoming Fine Food Business Forum in November will bring buyers from the multi-product and gourmet sectors to Barcelona.
Clearly, then, Catalonia and Japan have close historical ties. Their relations began in the 1980s when Japanese businesses started investing in Catalonia, and continue today with a mutual interest in strengthening and cementing the economic, institutional, cultural and educational links between both countries.


The Japanese -demanding and gourmet consumers 

For Japanese consumers, country of origin and the story behind products and producers is important. It is therefore worth noting that the Economic Partnership Agreement grants special status and protection on the Japanese market to some 200 European agricultural products with a specific geographical origin (known as protected geographical indication, or PGI). For Catalonia, which has around ten registered PGIs, this is excellent news. The Japanese also love designer packaging and healthy products, such as organic food and produce that contains natural ingredients rather than additives and preservatives. 


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