In a boost for global free trade, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and EU Presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk yesterday signed the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) to lay the ground work for the creation of an open trade zone covering over 600 million people. Also known as JEFTA, the deal has been long in the making, but was recently sped up by the advent of Donald Trump’s trade policies and the uncertainty created by Brexit.
The agreement will remove the vast majority of duties paid annually between the two major economic blocs, and has led to the removal of a number of long-standing regulatory barriers. Most prominently, the deal helps Japanese automotive companies selling into the EU, and EU manufacturers of agricultural products selling into Japan.
“Together with Japan, we are sending a strong signal to the world that two of its biggest economies still believe in open trade, opposing both unilateralism and protectionism,” said EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström. “The economic benefits of this agreement are clear. By removing billions of euros of duties, simplifying customs procedures and tackling behind-the-border barriers to trade, it will offer opportunities for companies on both sides to boost their exports and expand their business.”
The Economic Partnership Agreement is set to strengthen cooperation between Europe and Japan, reaffirm their shared commitment to sustainable development and include for the first time a specific commitment to the Paris climate agreement.
It also includes a comprehensive chapter on trade and sustainable development; sets very high standards of labour, safety, environmental and consumer protection; strengthens EU and Japan’s commitments on sustainable development and climate change and fully safeguards public services.
Concerning data protection, the EU and Japan concluded the negotiations on reciprocal adequacy on July 16, which will complement the Economic Partnership Agreement. They agreed to recognise each other’s data protection systems as “equivalent,” which will allow data to flow safely between the EU and Japan, creating the world’s largest area of safe data flows.
The agreement is now awaiting ratification by the Japanese Diet and the European Parliament following which it could enter into force 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.
Photo credit: The signatories of the treaty, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and EU Presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk (pictured here in Brussels on March 21, 2017); European Commission