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EU-Japan

The European Union-Japan Free Trade Agreement negotiations were officially launched on 25 March 2013.

Japan originally had the stronger interest in discussing a trade agreement with the European Union (EU). Tokyo wanted the same advantages as Korea had since signing a trade deal with the EU. But after the Shinzo Abe government joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in summer 2013, the Pacific pact became a priority for Japan.

The tide turned again with Trump’s election as US President. One of his first executive orders was to withdraw the US from the TPP. The EU-Japan FTA then regained momentum, the two sides having claimed their intention to conclude the negotiations by 2017.

For a long time, little was known of the treaty, apart from the EU summaries of negotiations and a few leaks. The negotiating mandate is still not public, but a leaked version in German is now available.

In June 2017, major leaks revealed the deal failed to uphold environmental standards regarding, for instance, illegal timber and whaling, and included the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism.

The ISDS mechanism is a point of discord between the two parties. The EU champions its new investor court system whereas Japan favours the more traditional system. It could possibly take a hybrid form between the two. The mechanism gives investors a special right to challenge new laws or regulations if they deem that their expected profits or investment potential could be negatively affected.

Another part of the treaty would be a regulatory cooperation scheme that encourages alignment and mutual recognition of standards. This effectively provides big business with special access to policy making process. Corporate lobbies from both sides have encouraged the inclusion of such a system to eliminate so-called “barriers to trade”, another term for higher standards, often leading to lower protections for people and the environment.

Tariff reduction and elimination have been among the main stumbling blocks. The EU is asking Japan to slash tariffs on farm products such as cheese and pork above the levels agreed to in the TPP, while Japan seeks the removal of tariffs on automobiles and electronic equipment. The EU also wants Japan to extend copyright protection for some sound recordings to 70 years. Tokyo also wishes to include provisions ensuring the free flow of data and the prohibition of data localisation requirements. The EU agreed to study the issue, although the European Parliament approved stronger data protection regulations in April 2016.

On 6 July 2017, the EU and Japan reached a political agreement on the free trade deal but further discussion on areas such as investment protection (ISDS) and data flows are expected before the final conclusion.

last update: July 2017


Results of last EU-Japan negotiating round
The Commission released its report on the latest EU-Japan negotiations, which happened between April 11-20 in Tokyo.
How TPP, TTIP and agriculture are shaping EU Japan trade talks
Two factors stand out in the EU Japan FTA negotiation dynamics: United States free trade agreements and the EU agriculture sector.
Japan offers broader railway access in trade talks with EU
Japan has offered European companies broader access to its railway market in ongoing free trade talks with the European Union.
Negotiator says EU would remove auto tariffs if Japan opens farm market
The European Union will abolish its tariffs on automobiles only if Japan liberalizes its agricultural sector under a free trade agreement currently being negotiated, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom
EU-Japan FTA: Why negotiations are far from over
Hopes that the three year-old negotiations between the EU and Japan towards a free trade agreement could be finalised by the end of this year are fading.
Renzi hopes to push through EU-Japan trade deal this year
The Italian prime minister believes the EU and Japan could finalise a free trade deal by the end of the year
EU-Japan FTA: Basic agreement to be reached by end 2015
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, European Council President Donald Tusk, and EU President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed last Friday (29 May) to accelerate negotiations over a long-deadlocked Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and Japan.
Japan, EU remain apart in FTA talks
The two sides ended their latest round of free trade talks without narrowing their differences on key issues, reports Japan’s NHK.
EU-Japan 9th round of trade talks further consolidates negotiation texts
The 9th round of EU-Japan FTA talks took place from 23-27 February in Brussels. The meetings focused on further consolidation of the negotiating texts.
FTA talks stall over European access to gas, electricity markets
Japan and the European Union struggled to bridge gaps over the opening up of Japan’s electricity and gas markets, one of Europe’s key interests, during a round of free-trade talks that ended Friday.