Drink container, chemical gripes

Japan hits EU over nontariff trade barriers


Japan has criticized European Union regulations on chemical products and beverage containers as nontariff barriers that impede smooth trade and urged it to take corrective measures, an EU source said.

This is the first time Japan has demanded specific EU action in their free trade talks to improve trade practices.

Japan and the EU started negotiations in April to conclude an economic partnership agreement that features a free trade deal. With the two sides scheduled to hold a third round of talks in Brussels for five days from Monday, their talks on market-opening measures in areas including merchandise and services trade and government procurement are expected to enter full swing.

According to the EU source, Japan has demanded a review of the EU’s Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals, a regime dubbed REACH, which requires companies that export 1 ton or more of chemicals to Europe per year to submit registrations and disclose related information.

The regime regulates even small amounts of chemicals contained in automobile and consumer electronics parts, while the interpretation and enforcement of the regulation differs from country to country within the EU, which is supposed to be a single market. Exporters, therefore, are hard-pressed to deal with the regulation.

Japan also has problems with the EU’s regulation of beverage containers, under which container volumes are set by unique standards, the source said.

The regulation is effectively blocking the efforts of small Japanese liquor producers to boost sales in Europe, where Japanese cuisine, such as sushi, has become popular. For instance, “sochu” distilled spirits in bottles of noncompliant sizes cannot be sold in the EU market, in principle.

The EU is considering Japan’s calls for remedies, but an official of the European Commission expressed caution, saying legal revisions may be needed to meet the requests.

Bilateral talks on nontariff trade barriers have long been dominated by the EU’s criticism of Japan’s automobile standards and medical equipment certification system.

If the EU promotes deregulation in line with Japanese demands, it would have no small impact on Japan’s trade with the EU, the world’s largest single market, involving 28 nations.