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Trade with Japan from 1 January 2021

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Trade with Japan from 1 January 2021

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How you import from and export to Japan will change from 1 January 2021. 

The UK signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with Japan on 23 October 2020. This Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement ( CEPA) maintains the benefits of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement ( EPA) with enhancements in areas of mutual interest. The EU-Japan EPA remains in force in the UK until 11pm on 31 December 2020.

This guidance provides information on the key terms of trade for UK businesses trading under the CEPA that will be in force from 1 January 2021.

Tariff rates on goods

Commitments on tariffs for the vast majority of products traded between the UK and Japan have been transitioned in CEPA without changes.

In some cases, the tariff rates may be lower than the EU-Japan EPA. In the UKís tariff schedule, 21 industrial goods tariff lines which have duties eliminated in the UK Global Tariff schedule also have their duties eliminated in the CEPA tariff schedule. Tariffs on two tariff lines covering electrical control units often used in cars are also eliminated at entry into force on 1 January 2021, instead of in 2024 in the EU-Japan EPA.

In Japanís tariff schedule, nine tariff lines covering certain leathers and hides will become duty free in 2026 rather than in 2028 under the EU-Japan EPA. One tariff line covering industrial ethanol, which became duty free in 2028 under EU-Japan EPA will have duties eliminated as of 1 January 2021.

Import tariff rate quotas

Access to products covered by tariff rate quotas ( TRQs) differ in the CEPAcompared to the EU-Japan EPA.

Under the CEPA, the UK will continue to have access to the same preferential tariff rate as in the EU-Japan EPAfor 10 TRQs:

  • TRQ1: Wheat products
  • TRQ2: Mixes and doughs and cake mixes
  • TRQ3: Food preparations made primarily of wheat
  • TRQ8: Food preparations of barley
  • TRQ11: Coffee, tea mixes, food preparations and doughs
  • TRQ12: Food preparations
  • TRQ15: Food preparations containing more than 50% of sucrose, and cocoa powder
  • TRQ19: Food Preparations containing cocoa
  • TRQ20: Food Preparations containing cocoa (for the preparation of chocolate)
  • TRQ25: Cheeses

The quota available to Japanese importers for British products will be the entirety of any unutilised EU quota in that year.


For malt, the UK will continue to have duty-free access to Japanís market for malt via the existing Global TRQ.

Before Permit ( BP) scheme

The new CEPA arrangement uses Japanís BP scheme.

This scheme temporarily suspends the need to pay tariffs at the border. The importer must provide a guarantee to the customs authority. One way of doing this is via a Bankerís Guarantee. This means that at the point of import, Japanese importers would only need to register the import under the BP scheme.

Japanese importers will be able to register an import under the BPs cheme through Japanís digitalised system for customs procedures.

Rules of origin

Claiming preferential rates for your exports from the UK

The requirements for claiming preference remain largely unchanged. A claim should be based on a statement of origin by the exporter that the product is originating, or the importerís knowledge that the product is originating. We will publish further guidance on the requirements for importerís knowledge before entry into force.

Small consignments and waivers

The CEPA stipulates that goods entering Japan from the UK below 100,000 yen are not required to produce a statement of origin.

The UK will publish the limit for goods entering the UK from Japan that donít require a statement of origin before the end of the year.

Using EU materials and processing in your exports to Japan

For exports of products that currently rely on EU inputs to access preferential tariffs, you can continue to use EU materials or processing in your exports to Japan. The working or processing you do in the UK must go beyond the minimal operations listed in the trade agreement. The other relevant conditions must also be fulfilled.

Changes to product-specific rules for exports to Japan

For certain products the CEPA provides more liberal product specific rules than the EU-Japan EPA.

Sending your goods to Japan through the EU and other countries

Goods transited through third countries (including the EU) will still benefit from preferential treatment.

For example, you can split a consignment in the EU when exporting goods to Japan. The goods comprising the consignment must not have cleared customs in the EU.

Transit through any other country is possible provided your goods remain under customs surveillance and do not undergo operations other than:

  • unloading
  • reloading
  • any operation designed to preserve them in good condition

Product testing, standards & regulations

Commitments related to standards, regulations and conformity assessment remain largely the same as under the EU-Japan agreement.

The CEPA includes annexes covering a range of sectors:

  • motor vehicles and parts in annex 2-C
  • facilitation of shochu export in annex 2-D
  • facilitation of wine export in annex 2-E

Mutual Recognition Protocol

The CEPA replicates the effect of the EU-Japan Mutual Recognition Agreement ( MRA) for Conformity Assessment, through a new Protocol on Mutual Recognition ( MRA Protocol).

The MRA Protocol provides measures to simplify the process of demonstrating compliance with safety and other regulatory standards. For example, the MRA Protocolís good manufacturing practice for medicinal products annex requires the UK and Japan to recognise each otherís inspection and audit systems. It also requires the UK and Japan to waive batch testing of products on import into their territories.

The MRA Protocol covers:

  • electrical products
  • good laboratory practice for chemicals
  • good manufacturing practice for medicinal products (human) telecommunications and radio equipment

Food Safety and Animal Welfare

Commitments related to sanitary and phytosanitary standards ( SPS) and animal welfare remain largely the same as under the EU Japan Agreement. Nothing in the UK-Japan CEPA prevents the UK from continuing to uphold its high environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards.

Trade in services

The CEPA replicates commitments for preferential guaranteed market access and fair treatment for services suppliers and investors from the EU-Japan EPA.

If youíre a UK business providing services in Japan, youíll need to follow Japanese regulations, including on:

  • getting an authorisation or licence to provide a service
  • complying with local business regulations
  • Japanese nationality requirements which could prevent you from providing services in some sectors

The Government of Japan provides advice on setting up a business and investing in Japan.

Business Mobility

The CEPA takes all the commitments on business mobility from the EU-Japan EPA and builds on them to provide additional opportunities for the UK and Japanese suppliers in the following areas.

The CEPA provides for the availability of visas for highly skilled professionals to work in Japan. An employee transferring from their UK HQ to the Tokyo office will be able to bring their spouse and dependents and stay for up to five years.

The UK definition of investor now focuses on investment in UK industry and jobs, rather than the amount of capital. Japan has expanded the scope of their intra-corporate transferee category.

The UK has also provided certainty that partners and dependent children of intra-corporate transferees can accompany them to the UK. Both the UK and Japan have committed to ensuring that the process for applying for visas will be clear, transparent, and with an aim that they be processed in 90 days.


The CEPA contains measures aimed at supporting e-commerce between the UK and Japan.

The measures within this section are aimed at:

  • prohibiting the application of customs duties to electronic transmissions and their contents
  • preventing the forced transfer of source code as a condition of market access
  • administering measures of general application affecting electronic commerce, such as the collection of information, in a reasonable, objective, and impartial manner
  • making an effort to avoid requirements (for example: a permit, licence, or approval) that need to be obtained prior to an economic activity being allowed to start where such activity is done via electronic means
  • protecting the legal effect, validity, and enforceability of an electronic contact
  • protecting the legal effect or validity of an electronic signature (or the authenticating data resulting from electronic authentication) against discrimination resulting solely from its electronic form
  • facilitating parties to a particular electronic transaction to mutually determine the appropriate electronic authentication methods or electronic signature for their transaction
  • facilitating the use of electronic authentication or an electronic signature in electronic transactions in compliance with the applicable legal requirements
  • encouraging the use of interoperable electronic authentication and electronic signatures
  • facilitating access to and use of services and applications of a consumerís choice
  • connecting the devices of a consumerís choice to the internet
  • accessing information on the network management practices of a consumerís internet access service supplier
  • protecting consumers online by prohibiting fraudulent and deceptive commercial activities online
  • protecting online consumersí personal information
  • protecting users from unsolicited commercial electronic messages (spam)
  • encouraging the release of anonymised government datasets where appropriate with a view to enhancing and generating business opportunities, especially small and medium-sized enterprises ( SMEs)
  • cooperation on a broad range of e-commerce areas such as emerging technology (including artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things)
  • banning unjustified impediments to the free flow of data between the UK and Japan whilst maintaining the highest data protection standards
  • upholding the UKís robust data protection laws for individualsí personal data when data is being transferred across borders
  • prohibiting unjustified data localisation requirements
  • preventing unnecessary requirements for encryption service providers to transfer details about their software, or other proprietary information, to state authorities as a condition of entering the commercial market

Financial services

The CEPA maintains the level of market access granted to financial services suppliers under the EU-Japan EPA.

The CEPA also provides additional enhancements to strengthen commitments on:

  • cross-border financial data flows to prohibit financial data localisation
  • the ability to supply new financial services and on regulatory transparency for authorisation processes

The ability to supply financial services in the Japanese market will continue to be governed by Japanís financial regulatory authorities.

Th CEPalso creates an annual dialogue between Her Majestyís Treasury, UK financial regulators, and the Japanese FSA that will explore ways to further reduce regulatory friction.

Geographical indications

Geographical indications ( GIs) protect the geographical names of food, drink and agricultural products.


The following UK GIs include Ďcross-border GIsí that relate to the territory of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

These GIs are listed for protection in the CEPA:

  • Blue Stilton Cheese
  • White Stilton Cheese
  • West Country farmhouse Cheddar cheese
  • Scottish Farmed Salmon
  • Irish Whisky/Irish Whiskey/Uisce Beatha Eireannach
  • Irish Cream
  • Scotch Whisky

Protection for additional GIs

Protection in Japan for more UK GIs will be possible under the CEPA. The UK and Japan have agreed that all eligible British products will be put through Japanís GI approval process automatically. This will allow additional UK products to be protected in Japan, subject to their domestic processes.

The UK government will put forward new GIs or protection in Japan on behalf of UK producers, saving time and money for UK businesses.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ( Defra) has contacted GIproducers to confirm whether they would like their GIincluded in the agreement.

Government procurement

Commitments made on government procurement between the UK and Japan have been transitioned in the CEPA without changes.

This means that the CEPA retains guarantees on non-discriminatory access to the Japanese government procurement market.

In the Japanese market, UK businesses now benefit from:

  • access to regional level procurement opportunities, including procurement by Core Cities
  • access to contracts across a wide range of services including business services, insurance, telecoms, translation, photography, specialist design, food and beverage serving services
  • improved standards for the publication of procurement opportunities across all levels of government
  • a commitment to publish procurement notices for Japanese procurement covered by this agreement on the Japanese Government Procurement e-portal
  • a commitment that the ĎKeishiní business evaluation procedure will not be used in a manner that discriminates against UK businesses

Further Information

From 1 January 2021, the Northern Ireland Protocol will take effect.

Freight forwarding may save you time and money if youíre exporting large volumes of goods or high value items by sea or air freight.

You should consult your legal advisers if you wish to ensure you understand the legal implications of trading from 1 January 2021 for your business.


If you have queries about trade from 1 January 2021 contact the Department for International Trade ( DIT)

If you wish to speak to someone face to face, we have local trade offices based around the UK. Within each office you can contact an international trade advisor.

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