Cheese wedges.
July 7, 2017

Japan/EU Trade Deal Will Open Door to Cheese Sales

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

The Japanese-European Union trade agreement announced this week will open the door for more European hard cheeses and other dairy products to be exported duty free into the Land of the Rising Son.

Importantly, the phase-in period for the trade agreement is 15 years, giving the United States some time to negotiate its own bilateral agreement with Japan, says Shawna Morris, vice president of trade policy for the National Milk Producers Federation.

The new agreement will provide full access for hard cheeses, such as cheddar, gouda and parmesan, and eventually eliminate the 28.9 percent tariff that is currently applied. The agreement will also provide increased access to processed cheese such as mozzarella and soft cheeses such as brie, camembert and feta.

The two countries will also enter into a process to determine which geographical indications, or localized food names, will be part of the agreement.

Japan is currently the third largest importer of U.S. cheese, behind Mexico and South Korea. Through the first five months of 2017, it imported nearly 13,000 metric tons of cheese from the U.S. That represents more than 28 million lb of cheese.

Because the Japan/EU agreement phases in over 15 years, U.S. exporters don’t expect an immediate impact on U.S. trade but say sales could erode over time. “For us, the agreement is a fresh reminder that the U.S. has to get in the game of negotiating a bilateral agreement with Japan,” says Morris. “The phase in period gives us some time to deal with it, but there is no time to waste.”