Trade pact easing Japan’s yellowtail, surimi exports to EU

Japan is hoping a new free trade deal with the European Union will increase seafood exports to European markets. Japan wants to reduce the trade deficit, explained Toshiro Shirasu, president of the Japan Fisheries Association, speaking to SeafoodSource at Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, Belgium.

“The EU ships EUR 450 million [USD 504 million] worth of seafood products to Japan but only buys EUR 50 million [USD 56 million] in return,” he said. 

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed between the two sides cut the E.U.’s 15 percent tariff on Japanese yellowtail and surimi products to zero when it entered into force on 1 February. 

Shirasu, however, sees a “big problem” in the low number of Japanese factories with HACCP certification required for E.U. market entry. 

“There are only 50 Japanese factories certified,” Shirasu said. “We are trying to change this by advising and training companies in how to secure certification.”

Japanese firms are likely to get a boost from the cut in E.U. tariffs, according to companies exhibiting in Brussels. 

“The cut in duties makes Japanese products a lot more attractive for European importers,” said Hayaka Nagai, CEO of Nagai Nori Co, an exporter shipping seafood products to European markets including Germany and Britain. 

Asia accounted for 70 percent of Japan’s EUR 3 billion (USD 3.36 billion) seafood exports in 2018. Japan’s neighbor, China, has become the world’s top seafood importer and consumer, yet an unpredictable Chinese inspection regime has cost Japanese exporters up to 10 percent of fresh product exports shipped to China’s ports, according to an executive at one exporter exhibiting at Seafood Expo Global.

Japan, meanwhile, also wants to promote “authentic” Japanese seafood in Europe, where many Japanese restaurants are operated by Chinese entrepreneurs sourcing from China, according to Shirasu. His organization has an annual budget of EUR 400,000 (USD 448,000) for marketing activities in Europe.


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