Ministers from the EU and Japan have pledged to secure a new free trade deal between the regions as early as possible this year.
A statement has been issued to coincide with the G7 Summit in Ise-Shima, underlining a commitment to reaching an agreement in principle over the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement/Free Trade Agreement (EPA/FTA) in 2016.
Signed by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, European Council president Donald Tusk, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, French president Francois Hollande, German chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi and UK prime minister David Cameron, the statement called for the ongoing negotiations to be accelerated in order to bring them to a close at the earliest opportunity.
Substantial progress has already been made over the last three years, with further efforts to be made over the next few months to reach an agreement encompassing key issues, including all types of tariffs and non-tariff measures.
The statement said: "Recognizing the strategic importance of the Japan-EU EPA/FTA, we remain committed to creating a free, fair and open international trade and economic system, which will promote stronger, sustainable and balanced growth and contribute to the creation of more jobs and economic opportunity in Japan and the European Union and to the increase of our international competitiveness."
Negotiations were officially launched in March 2013, following the release of an impact assessment on the future FTA in July 2012. The most recent round of negotiations took place in Tokyo in April 2016, addressing issues such as trade in goods, services and trade barriers, plus investment and public procurement considerations.
The next round of negotiations is scheduled to be held in Brussels this September.