EU Sees ‘Renewed Sense of Urgency’ in Trade Talks With Japan

  • Europe’s trade chief urges deal amid ‘rising protectionism’
  • Accord with Japan ‘would send powerful signal,’ Malmstrom says

The European Union and Japan are showing renewed urgency in talks on a free-trade agreement, with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom urging both sides to meet a year-end deadline in the face of increasing protectionist sentiment.

Malmstrom said on Tuesday that an EU-Japan trade deal could remove more than 1 billion euros ($1.06 billion) a year in tariffs between the two partners.

“Strengthening the partnership with our closest Asian ally, building bridges between us, is now needed more than ever as we face rising protectionism around the world,” Malmstrom said in a blog post. “An EU-Japan trade deal would send a powerful signal.”

In the latest round of talks, which took place in Tokyo April 3-5, there was “a constructive atmosphere, with both sides working with a renewed sense of urgency in order to respect the objective set by the leaders to conclude as soon as possible in 2017,” the EU said in a separate statement. “All issues to be covered by the agreement were discussed, including the market access for goods and services.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and EU leaders signaled increased efforts toward concluding four years of trade talks at a meeting in Brussels last month. Japan has indicated more openness to a deal with Europe since President Donald Trump withdrew U.S. support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The EU is stepping up trade negotiations with other partners, as well. After signing a free-trade pact with Canada in October, the EU in February accelerated discussions with Mexico to update their two-decade-old accord. Malmstrom is due to visit Mexico next month.

In the talks last week with Japan, Malmstrom said “all issues to be covered by the agreement were discussed, working towards narrowing the remaining gaps between us.” She indicated that Japanese tariffs and technical requirements are two areas of special focus for Europe.

Malmstrom also said that the EU is “applying the lessons learnt” from the ongoing international debate about globalization.

“The EU-Japan agreement will contain all of the guarantees built into the EU-Canada trade agreement -– safeguarding the right to regulate, strong rules on labor rights and the environment, and guarantees that public services can remain public,” Malmstrom said in her blog post. “We have also proposed that Japan follow our new, transparent model of investment dispute resolution, known as the Investment Court System.”

The EU exports more than 80 billion euros of goods and services to Japan every year, according to the European Commission, with more than 600,000 jobs in the 28-nation bloc linked to shipments to Japan.

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