EU, Japan sign major trade deal

AFP
Japan and the EU signed a sweeping free trade deal, saying they were sending a "clear message" against protectionism, as Washington puts up barriers and threatens a trade war.
AFP

Japan and the EU signed a sweeping free trade deal yesterday, saying they were sending a “clear message” against protectionism, as Washington puts up barriers and threatens a trade war.

The deal signed in Tokyo is the largest ever negotiated by the EU and creates a massive free trade zone, eliminating tariffs for everything from Japanese cars to French cheese.

It also provides a stark counterpoint to US President Donald Trump’s aggressive “America First” protectionism, which has seen Washington impose trade tariffs on allies and rivals alike.

“We are sending a clear message that we stand together against protectionism,” EU Council President Donald Tusk said after the agreement was signed.

Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said the signatories of the agreement were making “a statement about free and fair trade, we are showing that we are stronger and better off when we work together.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the agreement “shows the world the unshaken political will of Japan and the EU to lead the world as the champions of free trade at a time when protectionism has spread.”

Agreed last December, the deal is “the biggest ever negotiated by the European Union,” according to Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas, and will create a free trade zone covering nearly a third of the world’s GDP.

Japan will scrap almost all its tariffs on EU goods, particularly dairy items like cheese, though the country’s rice industry will remain protected.

The EU will also eliminate about 99 percent of its tariffs on Japanese goods, including crucially removing levies on Japanese cars from the eighth year after the deal is implemented, and scrapping tariffs on car parts immediately.

The agreement must still be ratified by the EU parliament, as well as Japanese lawmakers, but is expected to enter into force next year.

The EU, with 28 countries and 500 million people, is seeking access to one of the world’s richest markets.

Japan hopes to jump-start an economy that has struggled to find solid growth. Talks last year closed the gap on most remaining issues between the EU and Japan, but a dispute resolution mechanism remains to be negotiated.

The EU also reached a deal allowing businesses to seamlessly transfer personal data between the bloc and Japan.

“Data is the fuel of global economy and this agreement will allow for data to travel safely between us to the benefit of both our citizens and our economies,” EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said.

The Commission said the decision would mean that personal data could flow from the European Economic Area to Japan, without needing any further safeguards or authorizations.


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