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Japan’s Abe Pushes to Enhance Strategic Partnership With Europe

Friday, May 9, 2014

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe just finished a 10-day, six-country tour of Europe. The trip’s primary focus was securing momentum toward an end state in Tokyo’s negotiations with the European Union on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The trade talks have been moving at a steady pace since the first round of negotiations in early 2013. A finalized Japan-EU EPA would facilitate trade between the world’s third-largest economy and the EU, a partnership that would be worth over $20 trillion dollars, or nearly one-third of global GDP. According to a report from the European Commission, the EPA would result in approximately 1 percent additional growth in GDP for both sides.

Against this backdrop, and amid a murky future for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations Japan is conducting with the U.S. and others, Abe has doubled down on free trade with Europe as both a complement to and a hedge against other trade negotiations. During his trip, Abe made stops in most of the key European markets and political centers, including Germany, the U.K., France, Spain, Portugal and Belgium. The trip was meant to bridge the gaps between Tokyo and Brussels on the pending trade pact as well as cater to Japan’s bilateral relationships with Europe’s key states. In a joint statement released during Abe’s visit to Brussels, both sides called for an early conclusion to the EPA negotiations and labeled the pact as playing a “vital role . . . by addressing issues related to market access for goods, services and investment, procurement, including railways, and non-tariff measures.” ...

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