U.S., Japan reach organic trade agreement

Officials from Japan and the United States have announced the signing of an organic equivalence arrangement between the two countries.

October 1, 2013

Officials from Japan and the United States have announced the signing of an organic equivalence arrangement between the two countries. U.S. officials noted the organic equivalence arrangement will reopen the important Japanese consumer market for U.S. organic producers of all sizes, and will create jobs and opportunity for the U.S. organic food and farming sector.

“This monumental agreement will further create jobs in the already growing U.S. organic sector, spark additional market growth, and be mutually beneficial to producers both in the United States and Japan and to consumers who choose organic products,” said Laura Batcha, Executive Vice President of the U.S.-based Organic Trade Association (OTA).

Assessments conducted in Japan and the U.S. leading up to the signing found organic management, accreditation, certification, and enforcement programs are in place in both countries, and conform to each other’s respective programs. The first two-way trade agreement in Asia also marks the first organic equivalency arrangement without organic standards exceptions.

As a result, certified organic products as of Jan. 1, 2014, can move freely between the U.S. and Japan. Under the agreement, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Fisheries (MAFF) will recognize the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) as equivalent to the Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) and the MAFF Organic Program, and will allow products produced and certified as meeting USDA’s NOP standards to be marketed as organic in Japan. Likewise, the U.S. will allow Japanese products produced and certified under the JAS Organic Program to be marketed as organic in the U.S. Both countries will require that the accredited certifier must be identified on the product label.

In June 2009, the U.S. and Canada signed the first equivalency agreement in the world for the organic industry. This was followed with an agreement signed by the U.S. and the European Union in February 2012 recognizing each other’s organic standards as equivalent, fully effective June 12, 2012.

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