The European Union and Japan have successfully concluded final discussions on the new Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that will significantly liberalize trade between the two regions.
This represents the biggest bilateral trade agreement ever negotiated by the EU, and is expected to generate significant market opportunities for organizations in both areas, while also strengthening cooperation between Europe and Japan on issues such as sustainable development and climate change.
When the EPA deal comes into force, the vast majority of the €1 billion in tariffs paid annually by EU companies exporting to Japan will be scrapped, with specific steps taken to facilitate the exporting of agricultural products such as cheese, beef and pork.
The deal will also open up a number of key service markets, and ensure that all businesses are conforming to shared standards in terms of labor, safety, environmental and consumer protection.
Currently, Japan is the EU's second biggest trading partner in Asia after China, with the EU and Japan collectively accounting for about a quarter of the world's GDP. It is expected that this new deal will further amplify the benefits and value generated by this relationship.
EU commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmstrom said: "Today, we are sending a message to other countries about the importance of free and fair trade, and of shaping globalization. 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."
Legal verification of the text will now commence, with the aim of ensuring the EPA can enter into force before the end of the current mandate of the European Commission in 2019.