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U.S., Japan Make Progress in Trade Harmonization
January 31, 2012

Japan and the United States have made important progress on a range of trade and regulatory issues as well as on new areas of joint cooperation that will expand trade opportunities for producers and consumers in both countries.

“I welcome the progress we have made through the U.S.-Japan Economic Harmonization Initiative [EHI], which expands job-supporting business and export opportunities,” said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. “Addressing issues of concern and working closely together to advance new areas of cooperation will further deepen our relationship with Japan, a strong ally.”

Areas of progress achieved in the EHI talks include these:

• Strengthening vaccine cooperation: Japan expanded access for citizens to three lifesaving vaccines and strengthened cooperation with the U.S. government to bolster its vaccination programs.

• Introducing spectrum auctions: Japan will introduce a system within three years enabling commercial spectrum to be assigned by auction. Spectrum auctions will increase competitive opportunities for new entrants and new wireless technologies by improving objectivity, transparency and accountability in the spectrum-assignment process.

• Strengthening intellectual property protection: Japan introduced new legal protections that enhance the ability of intellectual property right holders to defend their products and services from unauthorized use through technological measures, such as copy and access controls.

• Reducing the drug and medical device lag: Japan made important progress to improve access for Japanese patients to lifesaving and other advanced pharmaceuticals and medical devices by shortening the lag by several months between the time regulatory approval is sought and a final decision is made for a range of products.

• Improving access for cosmetics and medicated cosmetics: Japan revised rules to enable new efficacy claims in advertising and labeling for cosmetics, and further streamlined the import process for cosmetics and medicated cosmetics.

• Streamlining merger reviews: Japan revised rules to increase the speed, transparency and predictability of anti-monopoly merger reviews, bringing Japan’s process into closer alignment with global best practices.

The EHI, launched in November 2010, aims to contribute to Japanese and U.S. economic growth by harmonizing approaches that facilitate trade, address business climate and individual issues, and advance coordination on regional issues of common interest. The process is led by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and includes the participation of multiple agencies in both governments.