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New envoy says EU, Japan not yet ready to start trade talks

MCOT News, Thailand

New envoy says EU, Japan not yet ready to start trade talks

2 March 2011

TOKYO, March 2 (Kyodo) - New European Union Ambassador to Japan Hans Dietmar Schweisgut said Tuesday that the European Union and Japan have not yet reached the point of starting negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement, while reiterating the need for Tokyo to make efforts to lower so-called nontariff barriers.

’’Quite honestly, I could not say here that we are already there and prepared to say that the road ahead is to start negotiations of a free trade agreement,’’ the ambassador said at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo. ’’I think we still need a bit more work on that.’’ Japan is eager to agree with the European Union on launching free trade negotiations at the upcoming Japan-EU summit meeting in the spring, as it believes that the elimination of EU tariffs on cars and electric appliances would benefit Japanese companies.

But the European Union has expressed frustration with nontariff barriers in Japan, such as tough rules on government procurement.

The ambassador stressed that such nontariff barriers have ’’so far prevented a stronger presence of the European companies and businesses on the Japanese market.’’ The reluctance of the European side to commit to entering FTA negotiations is based on ’’some doubts whether the Japanese side would be willing to address all those issues in negotiations in order to enable a balanced outcome at the end of negotiations,’’ he said.

He also said that the decision related to the negotiations ’’will have to be taken to our leaders when they meet later in spring.’’ (Kyodo)