The Japanese government is considering scrapping tariffs on imported wine, a move which it hopes would encourage other nations to remove their own levies on sake.
Australia and New Zealand reportedly made the request amid the on-going Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks. The two nations, along with the US, are known for wine production.
Government sources said Japan believes that the mutual removal of tariffs would greatly benefit domestic consumers while also increasing the export of sake, the country’s chief alcoholic export.
Imported beer and whiskey are tariff-free, but Japan levies a tariff of 15% of the price of imported wines, or 125 yen per liter.
At the same time, Japan has to safeguard its local wine producers, who will be drastically affected if the wine tariffs are removed.
According to the Development Bank of Japan, domestic consumption of sake dropped about 40% to 589,000 kiloliters in fiscal 2010 from 992,000 kiloliters in fiscal 2000. The fall is partly caused by the decline in preference among young people.
However, consumers abroad are acquiring taste for sake along the Japanese cuisine boom. Exports of sake doubled to 14,000 kiloliters in 2012 from about 7,500 kiloliters in 2012.
Under the economic partnership agreement between Japan and Chile, which took effect in 2007, Chile immediately eliminated tariffs on sake in exchange of Japan’s agreement to gradually remove levies on Chilean wine over the course of 12 years.
By Maesie Bertumen