Business

U.S. may ease bottle rules for Japanese alcohol as part of trade negotiations

JIJI

Tokyo and Washington are in the final stage of talks over an easing of the United States’ regulations on bottles for alcoholic beverages imported from Japan, under an envisioned trade pact between the two countries, it was learned Tuesday.

The U.S. currently sets seven sizes, ranging from 50 milliliters to 1,750 ml for bottles of shōchū and other imported distilled spirits, and nine sizes ranging from 50 ml to 3,000 ml for bottles of Japanese wines.

The rules, which force firms to make bottles specifically for the U.S. market, are putting a heavy burden on Japanese beverage firms in terms of costs and export procedures.

Aiming to expand exports, the industry has been strongly calling on the Japanese government to press the U.S. side to ease or scrap the nontariff barriers.

Under the proposed bilateral trade pact, Japanese tariffs on wines from California and other parts of the United States are expected to be abolished in five to seven years. In return, the United States will accept the Japanese demand for an easing of the bottle regulations, the sources said.

European Union-bound exports of shōchū in 720-ml and 1.8-liter bottles became possible under the Japan-EU economic partnership agreement, which went into force in February.

The two sides hope to reach an agreement at a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump in New York next week, Japanese government sources said.

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