The stream of announcements continues from Australia’s Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb with the latest announcement confirming that the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement ("JAEPA") will enter into force on January 15 2015.

This follows the exchange of Diplomatic Notes between Australia and Japan on 16 December 2014 confirming the completion of both countries’ domestic processes.

What does this mean for importers and exporters?

As with the Korean Australia Free Trade Agreement ("KAFTA"), the timing of JAEPA’s entry into force triggers two tranches of tariff reductions in quick succession. The first tranche will take effect upon entry into force on 15 January 2015 and the second tranche will take effect on 1 April 2015 which is effectively the start of ‘Year 2’ of JAEPA.

Benefits for exporters, importers and investment

Exporters:

JAEPA provides valuable preferential access for Australia's exports with many goods exported to Japan set to benefit from immediate tariff elimination upon entry into force. Those goods, which are categorised under JAEPA as ‘Staging Category B’, include a wide range of fruit, vegetables, some types of seafood, processed foods such as pasta and baked goods, some dairy products including milk protein concentrates lactose and casein and bulk wine.   Manufacturing and resources goods in the same category, and also set for immediate tariff elimination on 15 January 2015, include coke and semi coke of coal, non-crude petroleum oils, aluminium hydroxide and titanium dioxide.

Importers:

Importers will benefit from the elimination or reduction of tariffs on a range of goods   previously subject to import duty in Australia including imports of new cars and many electronic goods. Notably, second hand cars imported from Japan are excluded from the tariff reductions under JAEPA and are still subject to a $12,000 import duty.

Investment:

Australia can also expect to see further interest from Japanese investors post-January as the Foreign Investment Review Board threshold for non-sensitive investments will be raised from $248 million to $1078 million.

What should you do?

Exporters, importers and their service providers should now be taking steps to ensure that they are ready to secure the benefits of JAEPA at the earliest opportunity.

This will include a review of:

  • whether goods are "originating goods" of either Australia or Japan which entails review of whether the relevant Rules of Origin have been satisfied;
  • the actual benefits accruing from 15 January 2015;
  • the form of Certificate of Origin ("COO") required to support a claim of preference;
  • compliance with the terms of JAEPA and with record keeping requirements;
  • the way in which goods can be shipped without losing preferential status;
  • software required to report import and export transactions to ensure it is up to date; and
  • compliance with product labelling, safety standards and other certification and quarantine requirements.

We have delivered a number of presentations to the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia ("CBFCA") on the implementation issues for both KAFTA and JAEPA as part of the CBFCA's CPD program. This included both the webinars and more recent face to face member legal forums.

Details of the arrangements for claiming preference will also be available soon from the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service ("Customs") and we will await details of information sessions such as Customs ran on KAFTA, although this may be restricted by the limited time available before 15 January 2015.