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  • Author: Moritz Seiler

METRO's Position on the Free Trade Agreement / Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Japan

METRO GROUP appreciates the efforts to facilitate bilateral trade between the EU and Japan through an Free Trade Agreement. Within the scope of the negotiations, METRO GROUP very much hopes that especially requirements for food additives will be relaxed, allowing the export of popular European food to Japan and vice versa.

Free Trade Agreement / Economic Partnership Agreement (FTA / EPA)

METRO GROUP as well as METRO Cash & Carry Japan (MCCJP) appreciate the efforts to facilitate bilateral trade through an FTA.
MCCJP still faces some obstacles, especially regarding the matters described below, which need to be resolved within the scope of the negotiations:

  • Requirements for food additives should be relaxed, including MTA (Meta Tartaric Acid, preventing condensation in wine; see below), Iodine (included in salt), potassium sorbate (popular European food preservative), sodium copper chlorophyllin (green colorant which in Japan is only permitted for fresh sweets and impermissible for pistachio ice cream), and sunflower-based lecithin and antioxidants (SO2, Sodium Nitrate – for balsamic vinegar and olive oil).
  • Liquor sales should be liberalized so that cross-prefecture sales are allowed as well as that MCCJP should be allowed to not only sell foreign wines and local liquor (see below).
  • Import duties and surcharges for products such as cheese, sugars, and butter should be eliminated.
  • Import quota for seafood and rice should also be eliminated.
  • Import procedures should be improved regarding consistent judgments and transparency.
  • The approval process should be improved in regard to:

                  - Requirements for product origins (esp. meat: MCCJP cannot import
                     frozen pizza to Japan other than “Pizza Margherita”)

                 - Mutual and reciprocal recognition and acceptance between EU
                    and Japan of food additives regulation.

                 - Inspections as well as sterilization and disinfection processes.
                      

Japanese consumers will have more choices of European food assortments.

The Japanese government will be benefitted through enhancement of (esp. liquor) tax revenue in a scale more significant than MCCJP has so far achieved and which is appreciated by the National Tax Agency already.

Frequent and acute shortages in butter in Japan will be mitigated.

Bringing down these non-tariff barriers will allow us to move forward in the realization of the mutually prosperous economic partnership of both Japan and the EU through fair and free trade.

Special Case: Internet Liquor License

MCCJP asks to be allowed to perform cross-prefecture sales via the Internet:

  • Wholesale liquor licenses does not allow cross-prefecture sale via i.e. emails, internet.
  • This regime does not reflect wholesalers’ reality and is a stumbling block as regards the development of multichannel business and delivery services.

The level of service to customers will significantly improve as they are served much faster.
By liberalizing the Internet sales of liquors completely, the National Tax Agency would further enhance the national tax revenue through more liquor sales.

Special Case: Meta-Tartaric-Acid (MTA)

METRO asks for approval of wine condensation preventing MTA by Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW):

  • MTA is a crucial issue for the further enhancement of METRO’s wine assortments imported from Europe.
  • In the EU and also in Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Canada, Turkey, South Africa, Chile and Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), the additive MTA (=E353, metatartaric acid) is allowed in wine.
  • Until now, there have been no further detailed studies concerning toxicity, etc. – therefore no clearance certificate exists either. Permitted is a maximum of 10g/hL. Metatartaric acid, however, occurs naturally with grapes. A polymeric metatartaric acid is created by intermolecular dehydration. This can be considered uncritical.
  • MCCJP asks for the approval process, which normally takes 5-10 years, to be put on the “Fast Track” by MHLW.

METRO is currently applying alongside CEEV (Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins) and OEnoppia (producers of oenological products) for a project funded by the European Commission providing businesses and/or associations having the intention to lodge applications for approval of food additives in Japan with practical help and support, including, in some cases, on the preparation and follow up of their applications. METRO asks all stakeholders to lend their full support to this valuable European project.

Approval of MTA would significantly enhance the goods inflow of the excellently tasting inexpensive wines through imports from Europe to Japan.

Japanese liquor tax revenue from domestic sales in wines, collected independently of the import duties, would significantly increase.

Moritz Seiler

Information about the author

Moritz Seiler is Manager Asia and International Affairs of Corporated Communications and Public Policy at METRO AG Moritz.Seiler@Metro.de