Far East digest

Farmers get TPP concessions to boost chances deal being ratified

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Farmers fear the market will become swamped with imports
Farmers fear the market will become swamped with imports

Related tags: Halal certification, International trade, Japan

In a move to placate farmers worried about the impact of increased imports as a result of the recently agreed Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, Japan will be allowed to return its beef and pork tariffs to previous levels if imports jump.

In order to conclude the trade talks last week, the Japanese government agreed to relax meat tariffs and some rice and dairy import restrictions—a move which is expected to drive down food prices for Japanese consumers, who rely on imports for around 60% of the food they consume.

Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan’s agriculture minister, said the compromise would pave the way for the government to ratify the deal in a country in which lawmakers have traditionally been opposed to opening up the farm sector for fear of harming local agricultural production, especially beef and rice.

Tariffs on beef imported from other TPP members will be reduced to 9% over 16 years from the current 38.5%, according to Japan’s economy minister Akira Amari. 

Pork duties will be reduced to JPY50 (US$0.42) per kilo over a decade from the current maximum of JPY482. 

Japan will also create a non-tariff import quota for 78,400 tonnes of rice, and a low-tariff quota for milk powder and butter equivalent to 70,000 tonnes of raw milk, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement.

However, the agriculture agreement could pose problems for agriculture, according to the industry’s biggest farm lobby.

The TPP agreement on agriculture is seen as tough for farmers​,” said Choue Okuno, chairman of JA-Zenchu. “The government should take sufficient measures to ensure domestic agricultural production will remain sustainable​.” 

Following representations by Japanese farmers to persuade government negotiators to secure agricultural concessions at the final leg of TPP negotiations in Atlanta last week, Japan will be permitted to return current tariff barriers in the twentieth year of the agreement for both beef and pork if the market is seen to be flooded with imported products.

The country may also purchase an equivalent amount of domestic rice to the amount imported to support local producers and enhance the government’s chances of ratifying the deal.

Taipei reviews food-safety in record time

A food-safety bylaw has been passed in record time by Taipei City Council. If it is passed at a final review by the Executive Yuan, Taiwan’s legislative executive, the law could take effect in December.

The council’s approval comes just four months after it was submitted for review, to make it the fastest-moving food-related legislation passed by the city body.

The new regulations will target around 2,700 food and beverage outlets if passed, said Wang Ming-li, director of Taipei’s health and food department. It includes provisions for whistle-blowers, who would be awarded remuneration equivalent to half of any fines if they are employees the business under investigation. Other whistle-blowers would be in line to receive 20% of any fines issued.

The law would cover local transgressions and Taipei-based businesses that are found in violation by international regulators. Penalties will also be tightened for companies that are found to have used tainted products.

Nippon Shokubai gets halal certification for sodium polyacrylates

Osaka-based Nippon Shokubai has acquired halal certification for its sodium polyacrylates. The certification was granted by the Japan Muslim Association based on tests by the Shariah Research Institute at Takushoku University in Japan. 

The move is to promote business in Muslim-majority southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia where there is a growing need to provide halal certification for raw materials and production processes.

Nippon Shokubai’s halal certification is for its sodium polyacrylates for use in food additive-, feed additive- and industrial-grade Aquatic products.

Halal certification is granted to products and services that take into account the religious beliefs of Muslim consumers when they are confirmed to meet standards set by the Japan Muslim Association and the Shariah Research Institute in Japan. 

JGC signs up for Japan-themed business park in India

JGC Corporation will co-develop a Japanese-orientated business park in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

The Yokohama-based engineering company signed an agreement with Kakinada special investment zone to undertake a detailed study for developing and operating the food park catering, which will cater for food and agricultural processing sectors including seafood, fruits and vegetables, pulses and grains, dairy, spices and nuts. 

"The significant traction built by the governments of India and Japan and the recent discussions between the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh and the Ministry of Economy Trade & Industry, Govt of Japan, have persuaded Japanese industry to increase investments in India,” GMR Infra, the Indian backer of Kakinada, wrote in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange. 

The park is planned will spread over 300 acres. JGC is the latest Japanese organisation to show interest in the business park.

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