Japan-EU trade deal would be ‘strong message’ against protectionism

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has sent his agriculture and trade commissioners to Tokyo to conclude talks over a free trade deal with Japan in the hope that a deal can be signed at an EU-Japan summit next week.The trade deal, according to a draft of the agreement obtained and released by Greenpeace (which found the deal lacking in some environmental areas), will give both countries better access to key industries, remove structural barriers to trade and it reaffirms each side’s commitment to the US -abandoned Paris climate accord.The two parties came close to a deal at the end of past year, but the arrival of the commissioners signals negotiations have entered the end-game.Soon after being inaugurated, Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal signed by 12 Pacific Rim nations, including Japan, Australia and the United States in February 2016.Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yuji Yamamoto, who also joined Kishida and Malmstrom in the talks along with EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan, echoed Kishida’s views. The EU has forecast trade between the two could increase by a third, boosting the EU economy by 0.8 percent and Japan’s by 0.3 percent over the long term. They free trade talks began in 2013.”We are nearly there”, Malmstrom told reporters in Tokyo on Saturday evening, saying a finalised deal could happen by the “end of autumn”.Later that afternoon, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko met with Malmstrom and urged the early elimination of the EU’s 10 percent tariff on Japanese automobiles, according to a Japanese official who attended the meeting. “We are in deadlock”, Yamamoto told reporters after the morning session of his meeting with his European Union counterparts.Malmstrom said tariff cuts can not easily be realized as European automobile manufacturers are the biggest creators of employment in the 28-member bloc, the Japanese official said.”Intense negotiations ongoing this morning”.In particular, an EU-Japan trade deal could put US businesses at a disadvantage in the Japanese market, as they’d be up against European counterparts not subject to tariffs and restrictions.”Cars and agriculture the two big outstanding issues”, Malmstrom wrote on Twitter Saturday morning.Farmers in Japan have voiced concern about an influx of European farm products which are highly competitive.