The European carmakers' trade body ACEA has said that it wants Japan to eliminate non-tariff barriers to trade in cars before any agreement on EU-Japan free trade. It also said that regulatory vehicle standards in Japan should be harmonised in line with EU standards.

ACEA said that the European automobile manufacturers 'respect' the decision taken last year by the Council of the European Union to give the Commission a mandate to open trade negotiations with Japan. "We are strongly in favour of FTAs that are balanced and that provide real opportunities for export," said Ivan Hodac, ACEA's Secretary General. "However we still have some reservations about an FTA with Japan. We question its potential to create sufficient opportunities for European exporters to counterbalance the greater access to the EU which Japanese manufacturers will gain as a result of tariff reductions.” 

ACEA maintains that Japan currently retains unique national requirements which add to the cost of imports, without bringing benefits to the consumer. ACEA also stresses the need for Japan to accelerate the harmonisation of its vehicle standards with UN Regulations. 

"Our industry requests that an EU type-approved vehicle can be sold in Japan without the need for further certification or costly modification. This is not the case today," said Hodac. "European cars are amongst the safest and cleanest in the world, so there is no reason why a car that is suitable for EU consumers should not be suitable for Japanese consumers." 

ACEA also called for Japan to revise the fiscal and other privileges enjoyed by kei-cars (super-mini cars which are a creation of the Japanese regulatory system), so that European sub-compact cars can compete on an equal footing. 

"ACEA urges for the real and effective elimination of non-tariff barriers in the car sector. We welcome the fact that in twelve months the European Commission will assess whether Japan’s progress in this regard is fully satisfactory," stated Hodac. If this is not the case, the Commission has indicated that it will 'pull the plug' on the negotiations, ACEA said.

ACEA has suggested to the Commission to set challenging, but realistic, targets for the first year of the negotiations. It added that it will work constructively with the Commission and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that Japan fulfils its commitments to eliminate non-tariff barriers in the automotive sector.