Tokyo, Aug. 25 (Jiji Press)–The Japanese government plans to introduce a unique system to ensure cuts in its tariffs on British blue cheese to the level for such products from the European Union, Jiji Press learned Tuesday.
How to handle the Japanese blue cheese tariffs is the last remaining key issue in negotiations on concluding a new trade deal between Japan and Britain, following Britain’s exit from the EU at the end of January.
Under the system, Japan will initially impose 29.8 pct tariffs on British blue cheese and then refund the gap between that rate and the tariff rate for blue cheese from the EU, currently set at 24.2 pct, to importers at the end of every year or later, informed sources said.
The British government is expected to accept the plan, according to the sources.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and British International Trade Secretary Elizabeth Truss aim to reach a broad accord on the trade deal by holding detailed talks on the envisaged blue cheese tariff cut system and other issues in a videoconference seen to be held on Friday.
The tariff cut system will cover blue cheese produced in Britain, such as Stilton, which is known for its unique saltiness and is as famous as France’s Roquefort and Italy’s Gorgonzola blue cheese.
The refunds will be made only if there is room in the annual low-tariff import quota set by Japan for cheese from the EU under the Japan-EU economic partnership agreement, which came into force in February 2019, according to the sources. Under the EPA, the Japanese tariffs on EU cheese covered by the quota will be reduced in stages and fully removed in the 16th year.
Japan came up with the unique system, as it hopes to avoid setting a new low-tariff cheese import quota amid concerns among domestic cheese producers while offering a de facto preferential tariff measure for British blue cheese.
In fiscal 2019, which ended in March this year, Japan set a low-tariff quota of 20,600 tons for EU cheese. But only 58 pct of the quota was actually allocated to related businesses.
In the same fiscal year, British cheese imports to Japan totaled 27 tons. The Japanese government has apparently judged that the impact of lowering tariffs on British blue cheese would not deal a heavy blow to domestic producers.
Following Brexit, preferential tariff measures applied for trade between Japan and Britain under the Japan-EU EPA are set to expire at the end of this year.
Japan and Britain started negotiations on the new trade deal in June this year and earlier this month agreed, among other things, to remove British tariffs on Japanese automobiles in 2026.