America First” stance to a key summit.BRUSSELS, July 5 — The EU and Japan broadly agreed on a massive free trade deal today in a clear challenge to US President Donald Trump days before he takes his “
“We’ve reached political agreement at ministerial level on an EU-Japan trade deal,” European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said in a tweet after talks in Brussels with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida which capped four years of tough negotiations.
The two sides “ironed out the few remaining differences” and will now “recommend to leaders to confirm this at summit” tomorrow, Malmstroem added.
The deal comes days before a G20 meeting in Germany at which Trump is expected to defend his protectionist stance on trade.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to officially rubberstamp the preliminary accord at a meeting tomorrow with EU Council President Donald Tusk and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.
The EU and Japanese economies combined account for a colossal 28 percent of global output making the deal one of the biggest trade pacts ever attempted.
Devil in details?
The “political agreement” on the trade deal covers some of the accord’s toughest aspects but leaves aside details that could still prove difficult.
At the heart of the deal is an agreement for the EU to open its market to the world-leading Japanese auto industry, with Tokyo in return scrapping barriers to EU farming products, especially dairy.
Left untouched for now are the controversial investment courts that have stoked opposition to trade deals in the EU nations, including Germany and France.
The deal could be seen as a provocation to Trump who pulled the United States out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership this year, in favour of striking country-to-country bilateral deals, including with Japan.
The EU’s Malmstroem and Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan visited Tokyo last week to unblock the talks, with tariffs on European cheese a key sticking point.
Brussels wants Japan to eliminate its 30 per cent tariffs on some EU-made cheese, while Tokyo wants duties cut on cars which it exports to the 28-member bloc.
Officials said that EU automakers would win a long transition period — probably seven years — to adapt to the arrival of tariff-free autos on the European market.
European automakers yesterday meanwhile sought assurances that the deal would truly give them access to Japan, which is known for finding ways to block imports in sensitive sectors.
‘You’ll love JEFTA’
Launched in 2013, the talks had effectively been put on hold while Japan concluded the mammoth TPP deal, that was torpedoed by Trump in January.
With TPP gone, the EU-Japan negotiations accelerated, as both sides eyed the G20 in Germany as a possible end point for the broad outline of the deal.
“The G20 helped… There was very strong political will on both sides on that,” an EU source said.
Japan had been holding back on the trade deal with the EU because of the ongoing TPP discussion .
Despite the breakthrough, the EU’s recent history on trade however points to difficulties ahead.
Last year the giant CETA trade deal with Canada nearly sank when the small Belgian region of Wallonia threatened to veto it, before eventually relenting.
Wallonia’s then-regional chief, Paul Magnette, tweeted on Thursday: “You liked CETA? You’ll love JEFTA!” (Japan-EU Free Trade Agreement).
“I don’t think we are there yet. Greenpeace has already begun to politicise the deal, especially over investment courts,” said Pieter Cleppe, head of the Brussels office for think tank Open Europe.
But the whole debate over CETA, “at least forced the supporters of free trade to wake up and make their argument”. — AFP
Source: The Malay Mail Online