• Japan priority is ‘negotiating with large trade blocs:’ PM
  • Leaders of U.K., Japan, Germany, France, Italy issue statement

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron used the acceleration of talks for a trade agreement between Japan and the European Union to press his case for staying in the bloc in next month’s referendum.

A deal with Japan would be worth 5 billion pounds ($7.3 billion) a year to the British economy, showing the benefit of remaining in the EU, Cameron said at the Group of Seven summit in Ise-Jima, Japan. The premier, along with the leaders of Japan, Germany, Italy, France and the European Union issued a statement saying they would seek to seal an agreement by the end of 2016.

“This agreement underlines once again why we are stronger, safer and better off in a reformed EU,” Cameron said after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the agreement to speed up the talks. “Japan’s priority is negotiating with large trade blocs - not individual states in Europe. And this is something we hear time and again from foreign leaders.”

Cameron has repeatedly sought to dispel the idea that Britain could easily negotiate new trade deals in the event of a so-called Brexit in the June 23 plebiscite. In separate visits to the U.K. in the past two months, Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama have both said their priority would be to forge an EU trade deal, even if Britons vote to leave the bloc.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and French President Francois Hollande joined Cameron and Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk from the EU to hear Abe announce the statement at a media event at the summit.

“The leaders reaffirmed their strong commitment to reach a political settlement as early as possible in 2016 and instructed their negotiators to make necessary efforts in the months going forward toward a comprehensive, high-level and balanced agreement,” Abe said. “The agreement is going to be beneficial for bringing in sustainable and robust growth for the whole world economy.”

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