TOKYO (Kyodo) — The European Union is calling on Japan to make further efforts to eliminate trade barriers in the auto and food safety sectors as they began a fresh round of bilateral free trade negotiations Monday in Tokyo.
In an additional list of so-called nontariff barriers recently submitted by the 28-country bloc, it wants Japan to change rules regarding safety standards on automobiles, imports of alcoholic beverages such as beer, as well as food additives not permitted or are limited for use in Japan -- which the European side sees as trade barriers.
"Definitely barriers in the automotive sector and food safety sector (including additives and related substances) are dominating" the list, says the EU document prepared for the five-day talks.
Given that the two sides are aiming to conclude a deal by the end of next year, the Japanese side may find it difficult to consider the fresh requests, partly because some of them would request legal amendments and such a process could jeopardize the timeline, the sources said.
The latest talks come after the European Union decided to exclude three key Japan Railway units from the World Trade Organization government procurement accord -- an issue that had been one of the sticking points in the free trade talks.
The decision has generated some momentum in the negotiations, but the European side wants Japan to make continued efforts to improve EU exporters' access to the Japanese railway market, an area of main interest for the bloc.
The WTO rule requires an international competitive bid for government procurement worth above certain thresholds. Japan had requested that the three JR units -- East Japan Railway Co., Central Japan Railway Co. and West Japan Railway Co. -- be excluded from application of the rule as they have been privatized.
Other key agenda items during the latest talks include market access for the Japanese electricity and gas markets and elimination of EU tariffs on Japanese industrial products, including 10 percent duties on automobiles, the sources said.
Japan and the European Union together account for some 30 percent of global economic output.