Staff writerAfter a 16-month hiatus, Japan and the European Union will resume negotiations next week on an agreement to mutually recognize test results for certain industrial products, government officials said Oct. 6.The fourth round of talks on the mutual recognition agreement will be held in Brussels from Oct. 13 through 15, the officials said, requesting that they not be named.The mutual recognition agreement helps eliminate double-testing of similar products by the EU and Japan. Under the agreement, European companies waiting for approval of their products by EU regulatory agencies will no longer have to file for similar approval from Japanese regulatory agencies, and vice-versa.The agreement would simplify trade-related procedures, save both Japanese and European exporters money and time, grant them greater access to each other’s markets, and help increase bilateral trade in the medium and long terms.The resumption in talks comes less than four months since Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and the EU leaders agreed at the Hague in late June to work harder toward attaining an early conclusion to the agreement. The officials acknowledged, however, that a breakthrough will probably not be seen at next week’s negotiations because of the sharp differences separating Japan and the 15-nation EU.The EU proposed negotiations on the mutual recognition agreement with Japan in April 1993, and the EU and Japan agreed at a ministerial meeting in November 1994 to open negotiations. Talks on mutual recognition in nine categories have been held three times — in May 1995, December 1995 and in June last year. The categories include electrical products, telecommunications peripheral devices, chemical products, construction materials, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.In addition to Japan, the EU has held similar negotiations on the agreement with five other major trading partners in recent years, including the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. At a meeting in the Hague in late May, U.S. President Bill Clinton and EU leaders reached a basic agreement on mutual recognition in five categories: telecommunications equipment; medical devices; pharmaceuticals; information technology; and recreational equipment. The trans-Atlantic trade in the five categories is estimated to total nearly $50 billion a year.In Japan, organizations affiliated with government ministries and agencies carry out testing for product standards. In addition to the differences between Japan and the EU, resistance from the ministries and agencies as well as the testing bodies with vested interests is widely seen as a major obstacle to an early conclusion of the Japan-EU negotiations on the mutual recognition agreement.
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