In Face Of Protectionism, EU And Japan Sign Huge Open-Trade Deal

EU, Japan sign trade deal in 'message against protectionism'

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.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will visit President TrumpDonald John TrumpShocking summit with Putin caps off Trump's turbulent Europe trip GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit MORE at the White House next week, following the USA leader's blistering criticism of critical North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies and the European Union during a week-long trip to Europe.

"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", Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a news conference after the signing ceremony.

European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who travelled to Japan for the ceremonial signing of the deal, have both healed the deal, which covers a third of the global economy and more than 600 million people.

"Political uncertainty, tariffs, aggressive rhetoric, unpredictability, irresponsibility, they are the real risks for our businesses, not trade deals", he said. "What we're saying is that we believe in open, fair and rules-based trade".

"We are sending a clear message that you can count on us, both Japan and the EU".

Referring to ties between Japan and the European Union, he said, "Geographically we are far apart, but politically and economically we could hardly be any closer".

The deal removes about 99 percent of the tariffs on Japanese goods to the EU, but only 94 percent for European imports into Japan, rising to 99 percent over the next few years.

At the press conference, Tusk echoed Abe's view, stressing the significance of signing the landmark agreement when the rule-based trading system is under threat.

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Japan and the European Union became the targets of recent USA import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum products.

"There is no protection in protectionism", he said.

Next week's meeting with Juncker comes almost two months after the Trump administration announced that it would impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, as well as Canada and Mexico.

The deal, known as the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement or EPA, would lower most bilateral tariffs including high Japanese duties on EU agricultural products and EU tariffs on Japanese cars. Japanese will get cheaper cheeses, such as Parmesan, gouda and cheddar, as well as chocolate and biscuits. It will eliminate tariffs on Japan's mainstay products of automobiles in the eighth year and TVs in the sixth year following the pact's implementation.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also offered a backhanded condemnation of Trump's tariffs.

But both parties have decided not to include a controversial scheme to settle investment disputes and will continue negotiations over the matter.

The signing had been due to take place in Brussels on July 11, but Abe was forced to cancel his trip after torrential rains triggered flooding and landslides in Japan that killed about 220 people.

"It's a light in the increasing darkness of global politics", Tusk said.

The Japan-EU statement is meant to confirm their stance of warning against such hardline policies of the Trump administration and mutually cooperating to firmly maintain the free trade regime.

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