Japan, EU still apart in free trade talks; dairy products remain issue


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I hope this leads somewhere, but I'm not holding my breath. Whenever I go back to Europe I marvel all the fresh, delicious, and cheap fruits and vegetables piled high in the supermarkets. The dairy sections stretch as far as the eye can see with all sorts of milks and cheeses. It makes me want to cry when I come back to Japan and have to buy that 1 overpriced, pre-packaged, and flavourless tomato on the styrofoam tray which is wrapped in plastic and always a bit rotten on the side I can't see.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

Japan's got a pretty small/limited produce section. Can't even keep butter in stock on occasions. Japan needs to work something out. It's pretty pathetic.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

It’s hilarious that Japan wanTs to protect its domestic “cheese" market, seriously, it’s not even cheese as any one with a love cheese would recognise. Bland plastic-esque processed substitute fit for nothing but door stops and paper weights. This country protects poor products far too much, the most communist capitalist model within the G7. Am amazed they get away with what they get away with. Rice. Potatoes. Cheese... Hilarious.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Blessed are the cheesemakers, and those negotiators who understand that most European cheeses appeal to niche markets - Japanese and foreign - and won't adversely affect the Japanese dairy industries.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I would say that Cheese-Wiz is an excellent example of American cheese!

No. It's a horrible example of American cheese. "American" cheese (that individually-wrapped processed sort of bland cheddar-like wax) is also a horrible example of American cheese.

Wisconsin, California, and New York states produce outstanding cheeses. Real, actual cheese. Not in a can.

I'm no rah-rah nationalist idiot. But, credit where credit is due.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Of course it's only the Japanese consumer that suffers so why should they care. So few travel outside and those that do don't spend their time comparing super market foods and prices. If they did they might be quite shocked or possibly don't care because they only prefer Japanese made commodities. However judging by the flock of house wives following the supermarket employee discounting meat nearing its expiry date tells me the "normal" price is unaffordable to most, including myself. So it appears for example the farmers producing beef in a country completely limited and unsuited to its production are protected while Japanese housewives and others struggle to put a decent steak on the plates of their families. Shameful! I bet every one of those out of touch elitist beaurocrats negotiating these deals has ever even wondered or even knows what the price is of the wonderful piece of steak he or she eats!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

@Pacint, NO. Other than 桜チーズ, name ONE. You can not because there isn’t. Your observation simply isn’t valid or factually correct. It’d be akin to putting European manufactured CPUs on the same level as Japanese ones.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Europeans want to export fresh dairy products that will not be fresh by the time it reaches Japan 

Cheese can take months or even years to mature.....

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Once again Japan protecting an industry that represents less than 1% of its domestic market at the expense of its exports which it relys heavily on to produce the bulk of its trade income and the jobs it employs. Japans economy wasnt built on agriculture and its certainly isnt going to save them from economic retraction in the future.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

M3M3M3 - I'm not holding my breath either. Japan don't seem to do international negotiations (TPP, the six nation talks up to about 2009, resolving territorial disputes) very well. Some affordable cheese would be lovely. Cheese and teabags are the only things I ask for when people visit me from Britain.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I. Want. Affordable. Butter.

That's it.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

EU demands regarding its farm and dairy products are so tough

In other words, EU taking a leaf out of Japan's book. Yeah, it's so easy to sell imported rice in Japan at reasonable prices.


Whenever I go back to Europe I marvel all the fresh, delicious, and cheap fruits and vegetables piled high in the supermarkets.

Yeah, I know that exact feeling. It's quite depressing when you see what's on offer in Japanese supermarkets. You know, good customer service and fruits stacked so they're facing the same way seems to be the main attraction. I'd rather see a good variety of fruit and veg, reasonable prices and less wasteful packaging.

I think Japan wants to have its cake and eat it.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The Japanese Dairy industry, while essential to remain self-sufficient in milk, is at the same time time highly subsidized and it's secondary products - butter, cheese etc are protected by tariffs beyond reasonableness in this era of global trading.

The taste of cheese is of course subjective, but the critical point is quality dairy food should be available at affordable prices in this modern age. ¥500 for 100 grams or so of plastic wrapped average-at-the-best cheese is supporting the very few at the expense of the many.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Pacint et al,

The US export of cheeses is No. 6 in the world, tied with New Zealand and behind European countries Germany, Denmark, and France. HOwever, US exports is increasing since 2012 while German and French exports have been decreasing.

Blame that on any parameter you wish but it seems the overseas consumer is voting with their cash to buy US cheese.

Also, this is subjective, but in a recent European Cheese contest, US cheeses took home 75% of the prizes. Again, blame that on whatever reason you wish.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I remember when I was a kid in the 80s that restaurants had all kinds of Japanese cheese to sprinkle on your spaghetti. Then Kraft cheese came. All the other cheeses disappeared. Kraft tasted so much better. Is that what they are afraid of? A repeat of the Kraft problem?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I miss a the wonderful selection of European pâté and terrine. I have attempted with varying degrees of failure to make my own.....

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The high prices on cheese in Japan are not only due to tariffs. Japanese trading companies (importers) like Chesco have monopolistic access to markets here and make 'exclusive' contracts with foreign producers. It saves the producer the hassle of having to work out distribution, but raises the price enormously.

European cheeses in Japan are four or five times the price they should be. Pork products are even worse. Quality cured meats are up to 10 times more expensive.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The European Union is demanding an elimination of tariffs imposed on cheese and further opening the Japanese market of wine, pork, chocolates and lumber.

Imo wine and chocos aren't the issue. Plenty of good, reasonably priced foreign wine in Japan, quality J choco etc. Different story re cheese and all dairy products in general (as well as cold meats) i.e they are grossly overpriced. A 30% J tax on imported cheese is way too high and I do not see how this protects the local market anyway? If anything, reasonably priced euro cheese could benefit local cheese makers in the long run as J ppl would/could develop a taste for quality euro cheese then expand to local products.

The funniest thing is that cheese such as brie, camembert or gruyere, hams etc used to be my cheap/staple food as a cash-strapped student 20-25 years ago! If someone had told me cheese would one day be considered 'gourmet' & seen as luxury goods in other parts of the world I wouldn't have believed them.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I don't understand how not having any butter and cheese on supermarket shelves is a good thing. Allowing imports shouldn't hurt the domestic producers much, as they don't seem to be producing anything other than milk. I'd like to see some real half and half, as well. I'm tired of those tiny plastic "creamers" they have for coffee. And, more types of cheese besides individually-wrapped "American" and Swiss slices would be nice. (Mozzarella, Provolone, Cheddar, real Swiss, Muenster, and Brie would be a nice start. You know, the basics.)

But, for people putting down JP produce. That's just wrong. There are tons of fresh, tasty, locally-grown, and affordable produce in Japan. In fact, I'm disappointed at the low quality and tasteless produce in California markets, even at Whole Foods and farmers' markets, compared to what I buy and eat in Kansai, especially tomatoes, eggplant, and cucumber. Mmmmm. Oishi! There is simply no comparison. I have had almost zero problems with JP produce. Only once did I get stuck with a tasteless tomato (which would be the norm in the US). I solved that by not shopping at Heiwado anymore.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Okinawa has some pretty incredible cheese!

I'd like to try them. Really.

I will give any local cheese anywhere a try, if there's been effort put into making it something special. What I can't abide is overpriced mediocrity, or overpriced anything, or (especially) mass produced, processed, hypermarketed crap. There was a show on J-tele a few months ago about Japanese string cheese, with a couple of foreign cheesemakers (one of them Italian) crowing about how great it was. Total propaganda for Snow Brand and Morinaga. Food culture my hiney.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@pacint: With the most perfunctory of searches, returned within 0.01 seconds:


2 ( +2 / -0 )

The cheese issue is directly connected to the domestic dairy farmers and has nothing to do with domestic cheese makers since many are large dairy related food processors like Yukijirushi, Morinaga, etc. which can just start importing those European cheese.

The problem is the dairy farmers requires subsidies or it will go belly up within a few years which will connect to shortage to fresh milk which can not be imported.

I agree the JP government should ease tariff towards cheese and butter but not to the point which will devastate the domestic dairy farmers.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There shouldn't be no need to pressure Japanese dairy farmers when they are already decreasing in numbers and milk production may be difficult in near future let alone cheese.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Ah yes...free trade. Which, for those who don't already know, translates in Japanese into...

"We want free access to your markets, but we won't give you any access to our price-fixed domestic markets protected by tariffs."

Why do countries even bother? Just tell Kishida to leave ALL his tariffs at the door and understand that free trade is just what it says. Otherwise, he can sit the next round out brooding and puffing away at the local kissaten, grumbling about how unreasonable and insensitive these gaijin are to the special needs of Japan.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Cheese comes from dairy farms and the government does not want to upset farmers as old people vote farmers stick together.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Free and fair trade? Yeah, right.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Okinawa has some pretty incredible cheese!


1 ( +1 / -0 )

I would say that Cheese-Wiz is an excellent example of American cheese!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

How about just doing a deal with New Zealand for dairy products, cheese etc. The Gov. already imports NZ butter in large amounts but you won't find much of it in the shops. It just shows you that Japan needs to import dairy products and can't rely on it's own production. Remove the ridiculous tarrifs also- Hell, NZ takes thousands of Japanese used cars every year all tarrif or duty free. How about reciprocating.

I believe that NZ makes the best cheeses in the world. The variety you can buy there is amazing. You can buy 1 kilo of ordinary Edam cheese in NZ retail for around NZ$12. - less than 1000 yen. Go see what you have to pay for cheese in the Japanese supermarkets.

I bought a Japanese Camembert the other day and it was really good. I remarked that it tasted just as good as a NZ one. Was it really Japanese. I have bought Japanese labeled butter before and found hidden away in very small stamped writing, ( New Zealand )

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Yamamoto and Hogan also held separate one-on-one talks to understand their respective "political" stances, according to Yamamoto.

A week away from what could be the most consequential ,relevant and momentous summit (G -20) for generations.

With a back-drop of one key EU member state that is frankly turning away from a federalist policy of European integration.

A EU commission in denial of the political and economic importance that the office of the President of the United States of America represents.

Whilst  both the EU commission and Government of Japan embark on what could only be described as a pantomime of gesture politics, (Widow Twankey is not amused),where serious face to face, one to one free trade negotiations have descended into an absurd charade.

I would dearly love walking in my local Sunshine, AceOne , Sunny mart and be presented with a oasis of produce, but this cunning pretense, masquerading as free trade talks is beyond irritatingly phony.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Europe, please DONT give in to unreasonable Japanese demands, keep hammering them, they NEED to be hammered.

Japan has been getting away with murder as far as trade goes since the 70s, long overdue for Japan to be fairer wrt imported goods in general.

And wrt cheese, please its such a tiny percentage, its a no brainer, but alas Japan seems determined to protect these old guys who keep a few milk cows around, beyond ridiculous.

If Japan wont budge then up the tariffs into Europe! THAT will get their attention, play some hard ball!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The EU internal agricultural policy is one holy mess, and now the Eurocrats want to expand this stupidity internationally. Enough Brussels already. These corrupt politicos speak only for their unelected elite, and not for the populations of Europe.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Kaldi, Carnival, World Cheese, etc sells Gouda red too, Edam,Emmentaler,Brie, Camenbert, Mascarpone, Ricotta and more.

Not in the Super though.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

some great japanese cheeses on a par with European... US cheeses are artificial and rubbery, IME.

Name me one good Cheese from the USA that sells well globally... Answer the question. Simple....

I can find Italian, French, Swiss, Austrian(at times) easily here but none offers US.

You're quite persistent is your little quest to reassure yourself that your beloved Europe has the best cheese. Yes, you're correct: Europe does have the best cheese. Better than America's cheese. Even Japanese cheese it better than America's cheese.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Disagree many German qualified butchers offer good products, still at a price. But they produce them locally, ditto for cheeses, etc.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Not everything that calls itself Parmesan comes from Parma.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Borscht, I don't know anything about a European cheese championship. I guess you refer to the event sponsored by Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. Well, seems not neutral.

having travelled 37 countries, except US I have never seen American cheese. Seems you refer to processed cheese as food ingredient. Anyway cheaper quality cheese would be nice.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Of course winning comps and being recognised as Meisters overseas equal inferior products. Get Real.

A few Japanese passed the highest Chef qualifications back home, few nationals do.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

"Cheese" is the word when photographers say to people to get smiling pictures of them.

Japanese people do not have a strong attachment to cheese as It is written here.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I would love cheaper EU cheese but World Cheese, etc fill my needs.

Same token i can see people pushing non-eu cheese.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Europeans want to export fresh dairy products that will not be fresh by the time it reaches Japan at a time when local production for local consumption is encouraged and becoming popular? It shouldn't be in the interests of Japan...

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

Name me one good Cheese from the USA that sells well globally.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

I can find Italian, French, Swiss, Austrian(at times) easily here but none offers US.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

Disagree some great japanese cheeses on a par with European.

US cheeses are artificial and rubbery, IME.

-12 ( +3 / -15 )

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