Japan, EU agree to sweeping trade deal against tariffs

European council president Donald Tusk

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk signed the pact, which had been under negotiation since 2013.

The ceremony came amid spreading protectionism driven by U.S. President Donald Trump's "America First" agenda and an intensifying trade row between the United States and China.

In fact, Japan was the main driver behind the completion of the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement this spring, after Trump pulled the United States out of the deal, agreed upon by his predecessor Barack Obama's administration.

The deal with Japan is just one of many the European Union has in negotiations to improve trade relations, the New York Times reports.

The dialogue will be chaired by Japan's trade and foreign ministers and the European Commission's vice-president for competitiveness, both sides said in a joint statement.

"There are rising concerns about protectionism, but I want Japan and the European Union to lead the world by bearing the flag of free trade", Abe said at a news conference after the signing ceremony.

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While the EPA with the European Union is Japan's largest bilateral trade agreement, the country is the largest economy to participate in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, a high standard-focused multilateral trade pact that succeeds the original twelve-member Trans-Pacific Partnership that the United States withdrew from last January. "We are putting in place the largest bilateral trade deal ever".

Commissioner for Justice Věra Jourová welcomed the news of the agreement and the economic impact it could deliver, particularly because of the value of data in global marketplaces. The Department of Agriculture said the deal will ensure duty-free trade with processed pork meat and nearly duty-free trade for fresh pork meat exports. The agreement was supposed to have been signed during an EU-Japan summit in Brussels last Wednesday, but the meeting was canceled by Abe due to the recent flooding disaster in Japan. It has turned to the body to protest US tariffs, including saying Monday that it filed a new challenge to the Trump administration's plans to clamp tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods. The agreement eliminates tariffs on almost all major goods traded between the two sides.

The price of European wine and pork will fall for consumers in Japan.

Meanwhile, Japan is also in talks with China, India and other Asian countries to create the 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which could become the world's largest trading bloc. "What we're saying is that we believe in open, fair and rules-based trade".

ZARROLI: The deal comes at a time when European officials have been working to lock down trade agreements all over the world with Canada, Singapore and Vietnam.

The deal still has to be ratified by both houses of parliament.

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