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Japan, European Union Eye FTA By 2015

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

08 May 2014

Following a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Brussels on May 7, the European Union (EU) and Japan agreed to a one-year review that should lead to the "early conclusion of a highly comprehensive and ambitious" free trade agreement (FTA).

A joint press conference reaffirmed "the importance of strengthening the trade and economic relationship" between the EU and Japan, in which the proposed FTA "would play a vital role, notably by addressing issues related to market access for goods, services and investment, procurement, and non-tariff measures."

The two sides welcomed "the fact that market access offers have been exchanged on trade in goods, and that steady progress has been made in other areas as well. We reiterated our commitment to a rapid exchange of ambitious market access offers on procurement and on trade in services and investment."

The five previous rounds of FTA talks were based on the outcome of a joint scoping exercise, completed in May 2012. Both parties have committed to an ambitious trade liberalization agenda, but it has been reported that there are still concerns, held particularly by European car manufacturers, that access to the Japanese market could still be restricted by non-tariff barriers.

The President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy commented that: "If the one-year review of the FTA so allows, we must raise the level of ambition and bring these negotiations to a speedy and successful conclusion," while Abe, in his press conference, confirmed that the two sides will negotiate with the intention of reaching an agreement in 2015.

Both sides are aware that – if a deal can be agreed – the common benefits would be substantial. It is thought that a successful FTA could increase EU exports to Japan by 32.7 percent. Japanese exports to the EU are predicted to rise by 23.5 percent.

TAGS: tax | business | free trade agreement (FTA) | tariffs | agreements | manufacturing | trade | European Union (EU) | Japan | services | Europe

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