The leaders of the European Union and Japan have been called upon by business groups to accelerate their efforts to introduce an economic partnership agreement or free trade agreement (FTA) between the regions.
BusinessEurope, the Keidanren Japan Business Federation, the Japan Business Council in Europe and the European Business Council in Japan have all signed an open letter calling for a conclusion to EU/Japan FTA talks this year.
The letter, which is addressed to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council president Donald Tusk and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, noted that 16 rounds of negotiations have been held so far without a conclusion coming into focus.
It stated that a prompt agreement is necessary to keep pace with a rapidly-changing global business environment, particularly given the recent slowdown in international trade and the rise of populist anti-free trade rhetoric.
According to the business groups, an ideal EU/Japan FTA would include steps to improve market access, a removal of tariff and non-tariff trade barriers, an ambitious chapter on procurement and pledges to guarantee regulatory consistency and cooperation.
The letter said: "This agreement is a unique opportunity to send a clear signal to the world that we believe in free, open and fair trade as a way of promoting sustainable economic growth and improving the living conditions of our citizens."