Japan and the European Union have agreed to prepare for talks on a bilateral trade agreement.
Leaders from the two sides announced the plan at a summit in Brussels on Saturday (28 May).
“We still have a long way to go, but the objective is now clear,” Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, said about a future trade pact after talks with Naoto Kan, Japan’s prime minister.
The summit was also attended by José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, and Karel De Gucht, the European commissioner for trade.
Before negotiations on a future trade agreement are launched, the two sides will undertake a ‘scoping exercise’ to determine which tariff lines and non-tariff barriers may be negotiable. That exercise is expected to take around six months to complete.
“When two of the world’s largest trading partners jointly confirm their intention to work towards a free trade agreement, that is a big step forward: it carries symbolic and political significance,” Van Rompuy said after the summit. “The potential economic and political results are huge, in terms of jobs, growth, and a shared destiny.”
Japan is the EU’s sixth largest trading partner, with the two sides trading goods worth €109 billion last year.
The leaders also decided to work toward an agreement on political co-operation to replace a 2001 action plan.
The summit was the first between Japan and the EU since a devastating earthquake hit Japan in March, leading to the meltdown of a nuclear power plant at Fukushima.
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