EU-Japan trade deal first to carry Paris climate clause

European Council President Donald Tusk, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, in the last bilateral summit in July 2018. [© European Union , 2018 / Photo: Etienne Ansotte]

The world’s largest ever trade deal is also the first Europe has signed that commits both parties to upholding the UN climate accord. EURACTIV’s media partner Climate Home News reports.

Europe’s massive free trade deal with Japan is the first the EU has struck with a specific provision on the Paris climate agreement.

The deal, finalised at a meeting of leaders in Tokyo on Tuesday, will create the world’s largest open trade zone.

EU and Japan 'cement' relationship against Trump’s protectionism

The European Union and Japan signed a long-awaited commercial trade deal on Tuesday (17 July), in an emphatic statement meant to counter US President Donald Trump’s attacks against free trade and the rules-based international order.

In a first for EU trade deals, the world’s second and fourth largest economies agreed to work together to uphold the Paris climate deal. Trade could make a “positive contribution” to the fight to stop global warming, the agreement noted.

The deal also said Japan and the EU would “strive to facilitate” trade in renewable energy and other low-carbon solutions.

Europe’s commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmström has previously said participation in the Paris climate deal was a prerequisite for striking free trade deals with Europe.

Climate action should be a condition for future EU trade deals

The European Union should support France’s proposal to add compliance with the Paris Agreement as an essential element of EU trade accords, writes Steve Herz.

The Paris deal has become a totem for a vision of multilateralism being undermined by Donald Trump’s US administration. Trump has said he wishes to withdraw from the deal as soon as legally possible.

The signing was originally planned to be held in Brussels, but Abe cancelled his trip at the last minute in response to deadly floods.

In remarks on Tuesday, European Council president Donald Tusk said: “We are putting in place the largest bilateral trade deal ever. This is an act of enormous strategic importance for the rules-based international order, at a time when some are questioning this order.”

Cooperation between Japan and the EU would extend beyond trade to other areas, said Tusk, including climate change.

Malmström said: “We are sending a strong signal to the world that two of its biggest economies still believe in open trade, opposing both unilateralism and protectionism.”

Trade and climate: How the EU can protect the Paris Agreement

It is possible to effectively integrate the Paris Agreement into new trade deals, including CETA and the upcoming JEFTA with Japan. But it requires a bit more creativity than the recent political declarations, write Mathilde Dupré and Samuel Leré.

But experts have questioned the lack of detail on climate protections in the trade agreement.

“The [European] commission is primarily concerned with trade liberalisation,” Laurens Ankersmit, a trade lawyer with Client Earth, told Climate Home News earlier this year.

A 2017 decision by the European Court of Justice found it was legal for the commission to suspend aspects of trade agreements if there was a breach of the sustainability chapter. But Ankersmit questioned whether the EU would put such a huge economic deal on the line for the sake of the Paris Agreement.

In an interview with CHN this month, UN environment chief Erik Solheim promoted the benefits of free trade for environmental protection, although experts said there was little consensus on this.

EU trade policy: Time to end corporate protectionism

The EU-Japan trade agreement, likely to be concluded in Brussels this week, is the latest example of an EU trade policy that benefits global corporations at the expense of people and the planet, writes Kees Kodde.


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