Kyodo News reported on 29th that the U.S. government will ease import restrictions on Japanese-made alcoholic beverages.
Image from: Australian Financial Insight
In the case of shochu, the shape of imported bottles, which were previously restricted to domestic circulation in the U.S., will be allowed to be imported in the same way as Japanese liquor (generally referred to as sake), such as shikibutsu (720 ml) and one-liter bottles (1,800 ml).
Measures to protect specific origins through labeling will also be launched for sake and Japanese-made wine. Against the backdrop of the rising popularity of Japanese food, the relaxation of the measures may boost exports for Japan"s wine-making regions.
In an interview with Kyodo News, the head of the U.S. Treasury Department revealed that procedures aimed at revising the restrictions are moving forward and are scheduled to be implemented as early as the 29th.
According to trade statistics from Japan's Ministry of Finance, exports of Japanese-made alcoholic beverages, including sake and shochu, totaled about 66.1 billion yen (about A$845 million) in 2019, a 6.9 percent increase over the previous year and a record high for the eighth consecutive year.
The easing of measures in the U.S., the largest export destination for Japan's sake industry, is also expected to be an opportunity to boost consumption, which has been in the doldrums due to the New Crown epidemic.
The relaxation of restrictions on imports of Japanese-made alcoholic beverages was initially finalized as a relevant part of the Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement that will take effect in January 2020. It was originally scheduled to be implemented in the fall of 2020, but the U.S. side extended the domestic comment period that was implemented prior to the rule change, resulting in over 600 comments being collected, thus taking longer.
The revision of the protection of brands will also move forward, and the labels of origin for Japanese sake and for Nadagogo in Hyogo Prefecture, which is known as one of the few sake towns in Japan, Yamanashi and Satsuma for wine and shochu will not be allowed to be used on labels in other regions, and the label approval process itself will be simplified. The U.S. federal government is also coordinating with state governments to make it easier for local restaurants and other restaurants to use Japanese-made shochu and whiskey.
The Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement 2019 was agreed upon between the Trump and Abe administrations.
The U.S. will see a change of government in January 2021, but several Japanese government sources believe that it is an international practice that commitments made through trade agreements and other matters will not be reversed even after a new government takes office.