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EU finalises trade partnership deal with Japan

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EU finalises trade partnership deal with Japan

Cecilia Malmstroem - Photo EC

(BRUSSELS) - The EU and Japan finalised a deal on the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement Friday, creating an economic zone with 600 million people and approximately 30 per cent of the world GDP.

The conclusion of the talks puts in place the biggest bilateral trade agreement ever negotiated by the European Union. The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) will open huge market opportunities for both sides, strengthen cooperation between Europe and Japan in a range of areas, reaffirm their shared commitment to sustainable development, and include for the first time a specific commitment to the Paris climate agreement.

"The EU and Japan share a common vision for an open and rules-based world economy that guarantees the highest standards," said Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem: "Today, we are sending a message to other countries about the importance of free and fair trade, and of shaping globalisation.. The potential of this deal is enormous and I'm glad that the EU and Japan remain fully on course to sign it next year. That way, EU firms, workers and consumers will be able to enjoy the benefits as soon as possible."

The outstanding technical discussions since July have included: stabilising the commitments of the EU and Japan on tariffs and services; settling on the final provisions for protection of EU and Japanese Geographical Indications; concluding the chapters on good regulatory practices and regulatory cooperation, and transparency; strengthening the commitment to the Paris agreement in the trade and sustainable development chapter; as well as clearing up a number of minor remaining issues in several parts of the agreement.

Main elements of the agreement

The Economic Partnership Agreement will remove the vast majority of the EUR 1 billion of duties paid annually by EU companies exporting to Japan, as well as a number of long-standing regulatory barriers. It will also open up the Japanese market of 127 million consumers to key EU agricultural exports and will increase EU export opportunities in a range of other sectors.

With regard to agricultural exports from the EU, the agreement will, specifically:

  • scrap duties on many cheeses such as Gouda and Cheddar (which currently are at 29.8%) as well as on wine exports (currently at 15% on average);
  • allow the EU to increase its beef exports to Japan substantially, while on pork there will be duty-free trade in processed meat and almost duty-free trade for fresh meat;
  • ensure the protection in Japan of more than 200 high-quality European agricultural products, so called Geographical Indications (GIs), and will also ensure the protection of a selection of Japanese GIs in the EU.

The agreement also opens up services markets, in particular financial services, e-commerce, telecommunications and transport. It also…

  • guarantees EU companies access to the large procurement markets of Japan in 48 large cities, and removes obstacles to procurement in the economically important railway sector at national level;
  • addresses specific sensitivities in the EU, for instance in the automotive sector, with transition periods before markets are opened.

The deal also includes a comprehensive chapter on trade and sustainable development; sets the highest standards of labour, safety, environmental and consumer protection; strengthens EU and Japan's actions on sustainable development and climate change and fully safeguards public services.

Concerning data protection - dealt with separately from the Economic Partnership Agreement - a Joint Statement was issued during a summit in July, in which the EU and Japan stressed the importance of ensuring a high level of privacy and security of personal data as a fundamental right and as a central factor of consumer trust in the digital economy, which also further facilitate mutual data flows, leading to the development of digital economy. With the recent reforms of their respective privacy legislation, the two sides have further increased the convergence between their systems, which rest notably on an overarching privacy law, a core set of individual rights and enforcement by independent supervisory authorities. This offers new opportunities to facilitate data exchanges, including through a simultaneous finding of an adequate level of protection by both sides. The EU and Japan continue working towards adopting adequacy decisions under the respective data protection rules as soon as possible in 2018.

The EU and Japan will now start the legal verification of the text, also known as "legal scrubbing". Once this exercise is completed, the English text of the agreement will be translated into the other 23 official languages of the EU, as well as into Japanese.

The Commission will then submit the agreement for the approval of the European Parliament and EU Member States, aiming for its entry into force before the end of the current mandate of the European Commission in 2019.

At the same time, negotiations continue on investment protection standards and investment protection dispute resolution. The firm commitment on both sides is to reach convergence in the investment protection negotiations as soon as possible, in light of their shared commitment to a stable and secure investment environment in Europe and Japan.

The EU and Japan also continue working towards an early conclusion of the Strategic Partnership Agreement, which will further strengthen the EU-Japan relationship, and provide strategic direction and coherence for our existing and future common work. The Strategic Partnership Agreement and the Economic Partnership Agreement are planned to be signed together in 2018.

Memo: key elements of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement

Thematic factsheets on the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement

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