Japan, European Union sign free trade deal to defy Trump protectionism

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

The EU has signed its biggest ever free trade deal with Japan - hailing it as a "clear message against protectionism" in a swipe at US President Donald Trump.

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.

The EU and Japan remain open for cooperation,"said European Council President Donald Tusk, who speaks for the 28 EU national leaders".

"Right now, concerns are rising over protectionism all around the world", Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was quoted as saying by The Japan Times."We are sending out a message emphasizing the importance of a trade system based on free and fair rules".

Japan and the EU account for about a third of global GDP and their trade relationship has room to grow, according to EU officials, who expect the deal to boost the EU economy by 0.8 per cent and Japan's by 0.3 per cent over the long term.

The European Union's top officials arrive in Japan Tuesday (17 July) to sign the single market's biggest trade deal ever and present a united front as Washington upends the global trade order. "We are predictable, responsible, and will continue defending a world order based on rules, freedom and transparency and common sense".

The deal eliminates about 99% of the tariffs on Japanese goods to the EU, but remaining at around 94% for European imports into Japan for now and rising to 99% over the years.

At a EU-Japan summit Tuesday in Tokyo, the envoys were clear that the agreement was meant to send a message about the value of trade and cooperation.

He said: "I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade".

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Both sides also signed a strategic partnership agreement, a framework aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation on a broad range of bilateral and multilateral issues, including security, cybercrime and climate change.

Japan's ambassador for worldwide 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. Other U.S. tariffs on aluminum and steel have upset trade partners in Canada, Mexico and the EU.

Having started negotiations on the pact in 2013, the two sides reached an agreement in principle at the previous Japan-EU summit last July and then finalized their consultations in December.

The deal comes following the launch of export tariffs against U.S. trading partners by President Donald Trump earlier this year. Japanese will get cheaper wine, pork and cheese, such as Parmesan, Gouda and cheddar, as well as chocolate and biscuits.

It will abolish tariffs on Japanese cars and trucks in the eighth year and televisions in the sixth year following the implementation of the pact.

Trump also stirred controversy during his transatlantic trip last week by fiercely criticizing British Prime Minister Theresa May's handling of her country's exit from the European Union, complaining that she did not listen to his advice.

While the deal was largely agreed, its ceremonial signing was delayed because Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cancelled a visit to Brussels in the wake of the tragic death of more than 200 people after flooding and landslides in southwestern Japan earlier this month.

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

In addition its deal with Japan, the European Union is nearing ratification of a landmark agreement with Canada, though some stumbling blocks remain.

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