【News】Japan, EU seeking to reach free-trade deal in July, sources say(June 1, 2017)

Negotiators from Tokyo and Brussels are seeking to reach a Japan-EU free trade deal in early July, as they are trying to settle disagreements, including market access for European exporters into Japan’s agricultural markets, say sources.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and European leaders are expected to summon the political will needed to iron out their differences over Japan’s most sensitive agricultural products, such as dairy and pork, at the sideline of the July 7-8 G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

A senior official meeting will take place in June, and it is expected to focus on outstanding issues.

Informed sources said Japanese government officials are optimistic as they see a deal with the EU does not pose a problem as long as it provides the same level of market access that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) promises.

Following reports that the EU has so far demanded a TPP-plus concession in agricultural market access, Japanese farmers are worried a Japan-EU deal could result in serious consequences.

This is because existing trade agreements, such as the TPP and the Japan-Australia economic partnership agreement, have a clause that will automatically review market access treatment if Japan provides better benefits to another trading partner.

They fear a Japan-EU deal could ignite intense pressure from Washington to initiate a new bilateral agreement, following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the TPP.

At the sideline of the G7 summit in May, Abe and European leaders agreed that a Japan-EU deal is “within the reach” and it is time for both sides to demonstrate their willingness to bring the negotiations to a successful close.

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