Free Trade: Japan, EU postpone any hopes for an agreement to 2017

The Japanese Foreign Ministry and the European Commission have taken note of the delays in negotiations and postponed to 2017 hopes of concluding a broad framework for a free trade agreement between Japan and the European Union (EU), a spokesperson in the Japanese Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and European Trade Commissioner Cecelia Malmström discussed the issue by telephone on Tuesday, the spokesperson told Agence France Presse (AFP). Explaining his regrets, Kishida agreed with the Trade Commissioner that an agreement could not be reached by the end of the year as had been hoped, the source said. At the same time, they confirmed their will to resume discussions in January so as to move forward as quickly as possible on the issue, which has been stalled ahead of key elections in Europe in 2017.  

"It is necessary to conclude the broad outline for negotiations before these polls and I would like us to resume the discussions as soon as possible next month so as to reach an agreement in principle,” the spokesperson reported Ms. Malmström as saying.

"We have to make mutual efforts, focusing our discussions on pending problems and taking account of sensitive issues on either side so as to conclude quickly,” Mr. Kishida stressed.

A source close to the European Commission explained early this week that “things are more complicated that we thought”.

The negotiations have come up against two sticking points: the automobile sector, which Japan would like to see liberalized as much as possible in the EU, and agriculture – the Europeans seeing Japan as a particularly interesting market, with a high demand for quality goods.

On the auto sector, a subject that is “very sensitive in Europe, we are ready to open our market completely if we can reach a good agreement that includes adequate solutions for non-tariff measures,” EU Chief Negotiator Mauro Petriccione said on Saturday after two weeks of discussions in Japan.

Non-tariff measures are arrangements other than customs duties that can affect trade, such as particular norms or rules on product quality and safety.

(Source: Belga)

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