On 25 March 2013 negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement ("EPA") between the EU and Japan were launched and a first round of negotiations takes place on 15 to 19 April 2013 in Brussels.

The negotiations will affect many industries with far reaching consequences for future market access in the EU and Japan. It is therefore important for industries to actively engage in the process to get the best deal out of these negotiations.

The negotiations will address a wide range of market access issues such as inter alia:

  • Tariff-reductions: Japanese car exporters will be interested to remove the current 10% customs duty on Japanese car imports into the EU.
  • Abolition of non-tariff barriers: EU exporters will be interested not to undergo additional type approvals and certification in Japan for their products. This will in particular concern important industries such as cars, electronics, technical equipment, medicinal devices, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, etc.
  • Opening the public procurement markets: EU industry will be interested to get better access to the Japanese public procurement markets, in particular in the railway and urban transport sectors.
  • Further liberalization of service sectors: For example in the financial services and transport sector. Air- and maritime transport may play an important role in the negotiations.
  • Further liberalization of investments: Both sides aim to conclude an agreement on progressive and reciprocal liberalization of investments.
  • Regulatory convergence: The EU will try to "export" its regulatory framework in different sectors. The question will be to what extent Japanese standards can be considered equivalent.
  • Competition and State aid: The EU will try to enhance cooperation in the competition field and promote the introduction of its State aid law to ensure a leveled playing field amongst economic operators.
  • Agricultural / Fisheries sectors: Imports will be facilitated and both sides will be interested to reduce tariffs.
  • Veterinary and Phytosanitary standards: A greater opening of the agricultural sector will require common rules on veterinary and phytosanitary standards.

Given the importance placed by the EU on the elimination of non-tariff barriers, the European Commission's negotiating mandate contains a review clause which enables the European Commission to suspend negotiations (after their initial annual review in April 2014) if Japan has not made satisfactory progress in implementing the agreed roadmaps, namely the removal of non-tariff barriers. The EU has stressed that there is a "parallelism" between the elimination of EU duties and of non-tariff barriers in Japan. Hence, negotiations will be "front-loaded" and results on substantive issues in the first year of negotiations will be crucial. To this end, four negotiations rounds are planned for the first 12 months.