Tokyo and Brussels could sign Free Trade Agreement by the end of 2016

Tokyo and Brussels could sign Free Trade Agreement by the end of 2016

Tough Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations between Japan and the European Union (EU) could be concluded as early as the end of this year, paving the way for a raft of tariff and non-tariff measures to be swiftly addressed.

The issue came to the fore at last week's JAMA-CLEPA Business Summit in Venice, where the Japanese vehicle manufacturers association met the European automotive supplier body to discuss trade opportunities between the two blocks.

FTA's have dominated EU politics in the last few days as tense talks between Canada and Brussels were almost derailed by objections from the Belgian region of Wallonia, before a deal was finally hammered out, but it appears the Japan agreement will see a smoother passage.

Negotiations were given a shot in the arm by world leaders agreeing to accelerate Japan-EU FTA discussions on the fringes of the G7 Summit in Ise-Shima earlier this year, with real hope of inking a conclusion before year-end.

"Improving the business environment through FTAs is crucial and an economic partnership agreement between the EU and Japan is currently in the final stages of negotiation," said JAMA purchasing committee chairman, Masayoshi Shirayanagi at the Venice meeting. "We hope this will conclude by the end of this year.

"Japan [is] a country [with] limited natural resources [and] imported to produce goods with added value. We strongly believe right communication deepens the relationship of trust, which is crucial to the success of [the] partnership."

The importance of the FTA was underscored by a joint statement from G7 leaders at the May meeting, such as Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and European Council president, Donald Tusk, who all endorsed the potential for tariff and non-tariff issues to be addressed, while Shirayanagi stressed the importance of the EU to his members, despite the UK opting to leave the Brussels club.

"Notwithstanding the outcome of [the] UK's referendum in favour of Brexit, the EU today comprises 28 nations, with more countries likely to join in the future," added Shirayanagi. "JAMA members' operations in Europe have expanded to become European enterprises.

"Safety and sustainability in road transport have long been JAMA's priorities. In Japan, JAMA companies are working to ensure compliance with greenhouse gas reductions established by the Japanese government."

Despite Britain's decision to leave the EU, Nissan delivered a vote of confidence in its UK future by revealing last week it would produce the next Qashqai and will also add production of the next X-Trail model at its Sunderland plant.

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