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Irish whiskey to benefit from EU-Japan trade deal

The Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) has hailed the signing of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement – the largest trade deal ever negotiated by the EU – which will offer greater protection for Ireland’s native spirit.

Irish whiskey’s GI status will now be protected in Japan following the signing of an EU-Japan trade deal

Signed today (17 July), the trade agreement means the geographical indication (GI) of Irish whiskey will now be protected in its largest Asian market, Japan.

Irish whiskey sales grew 15.7% in Japan in 2017 to reach just under 500,000 bottles, according to the IWA, which described the EU-Japan trade agreement as the “largest trade deal negotiated yet by the European Union”.

William Lavelle, head of the IWA, said: “We see Japan as being a key growth market for Irish whiskey in future years.

“We welcome the new EU-Japan agreement as it introduces protection for the Irish whiskey GI in Japan for the first time. This means that only authentic Irish whiskey, produced on the island of Ireland in line with the approved technical file, can be sold bearing the name Irish whiskey.

“As Irish whiskey grows in popularity worldwide, we are regrettably, but unsurprisingly, seeing more counterfeit produce on the market.

“The legal recognition of the GI in emerging markets such as Japan is vital to protecting the high standards that are the hallmark of Irish whiskey as well as protecting the investment made in Ireland by genuine producers.”

Untapped potential

The IWA praised leading brands such as Tullamore Dew, Jameson, Bushmills and Teeling for spearheading the success of Irish whiskey in Japan, and also noted a wave of newcomers to the market, including Lambay Irish Whiskey.

Jean-David Coster, managing director of the Lambay Irish Whiskey Company, said: “Historically, Asian markets have not been among the traditional or more important markets for Irish whiskey.

“However, Lambay Irish Whiskey Company strongly believes that this region represents a great opportunity for the premium and super-premium segments of the Irish whiskey category, in particular the malt segment.

“We feel that the Irish whiskey category still has not fully tapped into the opportunities which Japan and the Asia region offer. More and more discerning consumers in Asia are looking for genuine and premium or super-premium products that are exclusive and created in small batches, combined with a sense of history and tradition.”

The signing of the trade deal comes in the midst of numerous trade wars across the globe, which have seen American whiskey caught in the crossfire. Earlier this month, China imposed a 25% tariff on American whiskey in response to the US adding tariffs to an extra US$34 billion worth of Chinese products, described as “the largest trade war in economic history”.

Meanwhile in Canada, the nation responded to US president Donald Trump’s steel and aluminium tariffs with its own retaliatory tariffs – including a 10% tax hike on American whiskey.

Canada’s move followed the EU’s introduction of 25% tariffs on Bourbon in June, again in response to the US’s steel and aluminium tariffs.

This retaliation has caused Brown-Forman to raise the cost of its American whiskey products – including Jack Daniel’s and Woodfod Reserve – in European markets where it owns distribution over the coming months.

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