Kyodo | Jul 7, 2014
Japan-EU free trade talks enter sixth round
Tariff cuts and the opening of the Japanese railway sector are expected to be at the heart of the sixth round of free trade talks with the European Union that began Monday in Tokyo.
The talks through Friday are the first since the EU decided last month to continue negotiating after reviewing Tokyo’s efforts to reduce trade barriers.
Discussions on tariffs are expected to accelerate since the two sides exchanged their first offers on reducing or abolishing tariffs during the last session of negotiations from late March to early April, a Japanese official said.
The latest round comes after EU member countries agreed in June to continue the negotiations with Japan after the European Commission reported on the progress made so far.
The commission had said the bloc might withdraw from the talks, which were launched in April last year, if Tokyo failed to make enough progress on opening up its market in one year.
The EU is seeking greater market access for exports of cheese, wine and pork, while also calling on Tokyo to remove barriers in the railway sector, including procurement of parts — an area of interest for leading EU member countries such as France and Germany.
Japan, for its part, wants to increase exports of automobiles and electronics goods to Europe.
To win concessions from the EU, Japan has proposed a plan to scrap tariffs on wine from EU countries over seven years, but the 28-country bloc was not satisfied with the offer, a negotiation source said.
Japan and the European Union, which together account for roughly 30 percent of global economic output, aim to reach a broad agreement by the end of 2015.