Japan: Trans-Pacific Partnership Concluded And To Be Implemented

On October 5, 2015, applicable trade ministers successfully concluded the Trans-Pacific Partnership ("TPP") during meetings held in Atlanta, Georgia. In response to these developments, and because the TPP will require each participating country to make changes to its domestic laws and regulations, the Japanese Government has started considering amendments to laws and regulations in the following areas:

1. Tariff and Customs Procedures Relating to Market Access and Rules of Origin

With respect to the trade of goods: (1) customs will be eliminated or reduced according to the timeframes agreed to in the TPP; (2) rules of origin that define whether a particular good originates in the TPP region shall be decided upon; and (3) a temporary safeguard mechanism will be provided, which will allow a party to protect domestic industries from potentially serious injury caused by a rapid increase of import goods.

2. Intellectual Property

Currently, the protection period of a copyright under Japanese law is generally the lifetime of the author plus 50 years after the author's death. However, the TPP will extend the period to 70 years after the author's death. As for patents, in cases where an inventor publishes an invention personally before filing an application, the invention will not lose novelty if an application is made within six months of publication. Under the TPP, this six month period will be extended to twelve months. During the TPP negotiations, standardizing the data protection period of the clinical trials of original drugs was a focal point. Ultimately, an eight year period was agreed. Under current Japanese law, generic drugs are not approved for use during the eight year re-examination period for drugs with new active ingredients. As this eight year re-examination period under Japanese law acts as a de facto data protection period, it is expected that the TPP will not significantly impact Japan in this area.

3. Technical Barriers to Trade ("TBT")

TPP countries will be required to allow interested parties to comment on the technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures proposed by the applicable government bodies for the purpose of preventing them from becoming trade obstacles.

4. Competition Policy

Should a company violate the competition law of a TPP country, the applicable antitrust authority will have the right to voluntarily resolve the case with an agreement between it and the company.

It is still unclear how Japanese laws will be amended to implement the TPP. Therefore, it is necessary for companies operating in Japan to pay close attention to developments regarding amendments to Japanese laws.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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