European Union to sign its biggest free trade deal with Japan

The EU and Japan aim to have the Agreement come into force before the UK leaves the EU next March

Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker added: 'Together we are making - by signing this agreement - a statement about free and fair trade, we are showing that we are stronger and better off when we work together.

This morning EU Council President Donald Tusk said of the deal: 'We are sending a clear message that we stand together against protectionism.

The foreign ministry said that by strengthening ties with the EU, Japan hopes to vitalise mutual direct investment, fight other global trends toward protectionism and enhance the stature of Japanese brands.

The deal is set to eliminate 99 percent of export levies on Japanese goods coming to the bloc with tariffs on European imports to Japan expected to remain at around 94 percent.

The Associated Press reported that leaders from Japan and the European Union hailed the deal as a significant step toward installing free trade practices, standing in stark contrast to 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's decision to implement steep tariffs against USA allies and China.

Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and the European Union leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker sought to establish themselves as the flag-bearers of the free world, in response to Donald Trump's show of apparent solidarity with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

Once ratified by parliaments on both sides, the EU-Japan trade deal will eliminate about 99% of tariffs on Japanese goods, including on cars, from the eighth year after the deal is implemented, with tariffs scrapped on auto parts immediately.

Japan's ambassador for global economic affairs, Yoichi Suzuki, has previously said it was 'a very high priority that [the deal] enter force before the end of March 2019, ' referring to the date when Britain is set to leave the EU.

The EU - the world's biggest single market with 28 countries and 500 million people - is trying to boost alliances in the face of Trump's protectionist administration.

Without mentioning Trump by name, Tusk made sharply clear that the agreement was intended as a counterpoint to Washington's current trade policy.

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The EU said the trade liberalisation will lead to the region's export growth in chemicals, clothing, cosmetics and beer to Japan, leading to job security for Europe.

The EU officials and Japan will also look to present a united front against USA tariffs on steel and aluminium, which Tokyo has called "deplorable".

He dismissed concerns about the effect on small businesses, suggesting United States trade policy was far more problematic.

"Political uncertainty, tariffs, aggressive rhetoric, unpredictability, irresponsibility, they are the real risks for our businesses, not trade deals", he said.

Abe "has good relations with Trump, but in terms of trade, Japan has sided with the European Union", he told AFP.

The EU and Japan concluded several years of data talks in Tokyo in the margins of a bilateral summit and the deal should come into effect towards the end of this year, once the European Commission and the Japanese government have finalised details.

The signing was delayed from earlier this month because Abe cancelled going to Brussels over a disaster in south-western Japan caused by extremely heavy rainfall, with more than 200 people dying in floods and landslides.

"It is the common duty of Europe and China, but also America and Russian Federation, not to destroy (the global trade order) but to improve it, not to start trade wars which turned into hot conflicts so often in our history", Tusk said Monday in Beijing.

"There is still time to prevent conflict and chaos".

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