In a bid to further enhance trade relations between the two, Japan and the European Union have agreed to officially start free trade agreement negotiations by April this year. This was a result of a teleconference summit between European Council head Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso, and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
A joint statement after the teleconference states, “The leaders decided to launch negotiations for an agreement covering political, global and sectoral cooperation and an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) / Free Trade Agreement.” Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi said that these trade negotiations are a “matter of great significance” especially since Japan and EU together represents 30% of the world’s economy and 40% of global trade. EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht also hailed the decision as a historic step towards finally having a trade agreement after years of discussions but no results. He said that the agreement that they’ve been gunning for the longest time involves “tackling barriers and non-tariff barriers, public procurements, intellectual property rights.” Before the teleconference, he expressed the hope that a deal will be reached since only 3% of European foreign direct investment has been put into Japan and so it’s about time to significantly strengthen this relationship.
Exporters have long complained about Japan’s steep tariffs and other barriers that heavily favors domestic producers. De Gucht said that in order for the talks to effectively succeed, progress must be made on the non-tariff issue within one year. He said that he’ll be reviewing the situation one year after the negotiations officially start and if they discover that no headway has been made, then negotiations will be suspended.
The EU officials were supposed to have met PM Abe, Emperor Akihito, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Japanese business leaders in person on Monday but due to the Cyprus financial crisis, the meeting had to be turned into just a teleconference summit. The three are believed to have also discussed the possible global economic fallout if the Mediterranean country leaves the 17-nation Eurozone.
[ via Channel News Asia ]
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