Staff writerIn the first breakthrough in nearly two years of tough negotiations, Japan and the 15-nation European Union have agreed in principle to mutually recognize test results for electrical goods and telecommunications peripheral devices, government officials said Friday.The Japanese government will submit necessary legislative amendments for the mutual recognition of test results to the next ordinary Diet session, to be convened early next year, at the earliest, the officials said, requesting anonymity.Japan and the EU have also reached a basic agreement on two of the seven other product categories on the negotiating table, although the agreement stops short of mutually recognizing test results for them, the officials said.The regulatory authorities of Japan and the EU would allow each other’s exporters of chemical products and pharmaceuticals to submit for testing identical data, instead of different data for different authorities as they are doing at present.Authorities of each party, however, would continue to decide whether to approve the products, the officials said. The basic agreement on the four product categories has been reached in Japan-EU negotiations on the mutual recognition agreement, or MRA as it is commonly known, the officials said.The MRA would help eliminate double-testing of similar products by Japan and the EU. Under the agreement, European companies waiting for approval of their products by EU regulatory agencies would 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-term.The EU proposed negotiations on the MRA with Japan in April 1993. The two sides agreed at a ministerial meeting in November 1994 to open the talks. Negotiations on nine product categories, including the four categories on which a basic agreement has been reached, have been held since May 1995. Among the other five categories are construction materials, boilers and medical equipment.In addition to Japan, the EU has held similar negotiations on the mutual recognition agreement in recent years with five other major trading partners, including the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. At a meeting in the Hague last May, U.S. President Bill Clinton and EU leaders reached a basic agreement on mutual recognition in five product categories — telecommunications equipment, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, information technology and recreational equipment. Trans-Atlantic trade in the five categories is estimated to total nearly $50 billion a year.

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