United States and Japan sign organic equivalence arrangement - Organic Trade Association
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United States and Japan sign organic equivalence arrangement


On September 26, 2013, officials from Japan and the United States announced the signing of an organic equivalence arrangement between the two countries in ceremonies at All Things Organic in Baltimore, MD, at Natural Products Expo East. As a result, certified organic products as of Jan. 1, 2014, can move freely between the United States and Japan.

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. The two-way trade agreement is the first in Asia, and also marks the first organic equivalency arrangement without organic standards exceptions.

Read OTA’s press release for more information on how Japan and the United States will work together to promote strong organic programs, protect organic standards, enhance cooperation, and facilitate trade in organic products. OTA has also prepared the following on the Japan-U.S. equivalency agreement as well as general information on equivalency in organic regulatory systems.

Members can direct their questions about this agreement to:

  • Monique Marez, OTA’s Senior International Trade Manager
  • Bob Anderson, OTA’s Senior Trade Advisor of Sustainable Strategies—Advisors in Food & Agriculture.

For additional information, visit the National Organic Program website.


As of January 1, 2014, under the arrangement, the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF) will recognize USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) as equivalent to the Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) and the MAFF Organic Program (under applicable JAS regulations) and will allow products produced and certified as meeting USDA’s NOP standards to be marketed as “organic” in the Japan Likewise, the United States will allow Japanese products produced and certified under the JAS Organic Program to be marketed as “organic” in the United States.

Conformity Assessments
Through a series of meetings and comprehensive on-site audits of both programs, both parties were able to ensure that while some of national program rules and approaches are not identical, they achieve an equivalent level of compliance, meet same objectives and maintain the high-quality standards important to the integrity of both programs. 


  • September 26, 2013 – Agreements published following exchange of letters
  • January 1, 2014 – Effective date that trade may begin under the arrangement.

Critical Variances
There are NO critical variances under the U.S./Japan arrangement.

  • This Japan/U.S. agreement is the first equivalency arrangement with no critical variances and the first two-way agreement in Asia.

The U.S./Japan arrangement clarifies requirements for export of all U.S. organic products to Japan including plant and plant-based products that are JAS eligible and animal products and animal-based processed products not JAS eligible.

Requirements for Export Certificates

  • Exports to Japan require TM-11: The United States has agreed to use the current certifier-issued Import Certificates (TM-11), with updated instructions forthcoming, to accompany each shipment to Japan.
  • Exports to the U.S. require import certificates: Comparable to requirements for shipments form the EU to the U.S., USDA is developing guidance on the template and system requirements for products to be shipped from Japan.

Labeling Requirements under the arrangement
Plant and plant-based products- The use of the JAS organic seal is mandatory:

  • Producers and Processors wishing to apply the JAS Seal in the United States must EITHER:
    • Be certified by a JAS accredited certifier
    • OR have a contractual relationship with a JAS Accredited Importer.

Animal products and animal-based processed products- May not use the JAS seal

  • Certified by USDA-NOP accredited certifier may access the Japanese market. All USDA certified products must comply with the USDA organic regulations
  • These products may be labeled with the word “organic” in English or Japanese.
  • May use the USDA Organic seal.
  • An export certificate (TM-11) is not required.


  • Alcohol products certified to the USDA organic standard may be exported to Japan. The alcoholic beverage must display the USDA Organic seal if it is compliant with the USDA organic labeling requirement. If labeled as “organic” in Japanese, these products must be accompanied by an export certificate(TM-11) which contains:
    • Name of the certified [alcoholic beverage]
    • Name and address of the certified organic vineyard, distillery or brewery
    • Country of Origin
    • Name and address of the organic certifying agent.

Geographic Scope of this Agreement
Geographic scope of the U.S.–Japan Organic Trade Arrangement is comparable to the scope of the U.S.–E.U. Organic Trade Arrangement signed in February 2012.

  • Product grown, processed, packaged (where final processing occurred) in Japan or the U.S. and certified by an accredited certifying agency (ACA) operating within their respective country/region borders can be shipped directly to Japan/U.S. as certified organic product.
  • Product certified to either standard that has NOT been grown, processed, packaged in the United States or Japan cannot be shipped directly to Japan /U.S.
  • Product NOT grown, processed or packaged in Japan that is destined for the United States must be certified to the USDA-NOP standard by a USDA-accredited certifier.
  • Product not grown, processed or packaged in the United States to be shipped directly to Japan must be certified to the JAS standard or certified by a Certification Body recognized by Japan as an equivalent Certification Body/Foreign Certification Agent.

Mutual Accreditation
Japan and U.S. mutually recognize each other’s Accredited Certification Agents (ACA) and Registered Certification Bodies (RCB) as accredited certification agents.

Seal Use

  • Use of the USDA Organic seal is voluntary, provided that products meet the USDA labeling requirements.
  • The use of the JAS organic logo is mandatory for products destined to Japan for those products that are JAS eligible (plant and plant-based products).

Certifier Mark

  • Japan & the U.S. require that the Accredited Certifier must be identified on the label.

Organic Labeling in Japan
General Labeling Requirements: Product must still meet Japan’s general labeling requirements, which are similar to one another but may have subtle differences, just as product going to Canada must have dual language (English and French) labeling “Organic”.

  • Applies only to products containing 95 percent and above organic ingredients.


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