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Economy

EU weighs scrapping Japanese tea, sake duties

Brand protection also on table in final stages of trade talks

TOKYO -- Japan and the European Union are reportedly discussing ending EU duties on Japanese green tea and sake as part of an economic partnership agreement, a step likely to boost the agricultural exports that form a central part of Tokyo's growth strategy.

Japan logged record exports of both products last year in value terms, and green tea topped the list of its agricultural exports to Germany. The EU imposes a common tariff of up to 7.7 euros ($8.61) per 100 liters on noncarbonated sake and a 3.2% duty on green tea. These would be eliminated immediately once the trade deal takes effect.

Brussels is also leaning toward granting a geographical indication for nihonshu, or Japanese sake, which would help protect the brand. Though both sides are still focused on protecting domestic agriculture, Japan is adopting a more aggressive stance in a bid to promote exports.

Talks on the deal are entering the final stretch. A meeting between chief negotiators from both sides began Monday.

Tokyo reportedly plans to simplify paperwork for EU-registered vessels carrying freight along the Japanese coast, a partial concession that hopefully will make Japan a more attractive waypoint for East Asian shipping. For example, an EU-registered ship dropping off freight at Kobe and bringing the empty container to Yokohama to pick up an EU-bound shipment would just need the Japanese transport ministry to sign off on the trip as a whole rather than each step as currently required.

(Nikkei)

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