EU pushes for 2017 conclusion to free trade talks with Japan

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström (centre) takes a walk through the Otemachi business area in Tokyo. May 28, 2015. [European Commission]

The European Union should be able to conclude a free trade agreement with Japan this year after failing to hit an end-2016 deadline, a European Commission source close to the negotiations said on Monday (20 February).

A trade deal between the two has taken on added significance after US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from a planned Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade alliance including Japan and as the EU looks beyond America for trade partnerships.

“We don’t intend to slip into next year. In fact, we’d like to do this much faster than that. I have no idea whether it’s March, June, September,” said the Commission source.

The key issue is to balance Europe’s wish to sell more food and drinks in Japan and gain access to Japanese public tenders, with Tokyo’s demand for tariff-free access for its auto industry, including car parts.

“I don’t see any reason in the negotiations as they are why it shouldn’t be done this year. And if it’s not done this year, we will have to ask ourselves the serious question of whether it can be done at all,” the Commission source said.

Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida agreed at a meeting last week on a commitment to secure a deal soon.

Tokyo targets EU trade deal by end of 2017

The Japanese government plans to accelerate talks with the EU, aiming to sign a free trade deal with the bloc this year, according to Japanese news outlet NHK. EURACTIV Spain reports.

For Europe, a deal with Japan would represent not only an economic boost but a further symbolic success for its trade agenda, with the EU-Canada trade pact set to go into force in the coming months after fierce opposition.

For Japan, the deal would show it can still do deals despite the apparent demise of the TPP, once a pillar of Washington’s Asia policy.

Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, is the EU’s sixth-biggest export market. For Japan, the EU ranks as the third-largest destination for its goods.

EU-Japan FTA would boost growth more than TTIP

A free trade agreement with Tokyo could boost European GDP more than the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Czech MEPs say after coming back from  Japan. EURACTIV Czech Republic reports.

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