Diplomatist Magazine Diplomatist April 2018 - Page 30

GLOBAL CENTRE STAGE EU-JAPAN RELATIONS TOWARDS A NEW POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP? BY MICHAEL FRENKEL AND BENEDIKT WALTER* T he visit of Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kōno in Brussels on 8 December 2017 marked the end of four years of negotiation of a comprehensive free trade and partnership agreement between the European Union and Japan. The so-called “EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)” is a major achievement in the economic cooperation between the two economic areas, because it comprises far reaching liberalisation measures in international trade and facilitates mutual investment activities. For example, the agreement will eliminate tariffs on 91 percent of EU exports to Japan on the day of its ratifi cation. After different transition periods, 99 percent of EU imports from Japan will be fully liberalised. Furthermore, the new agreement is expected to provide a new impetus for EU-Japan political cooperation beyond the economic rationale. The importance of the agreement for the Japanese government - both in political and economic terms - was emphasised by a recent visit of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to six Central and Eastern European countries. Abe visited Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Romania in an effort to foster a rapid implementation of the EU-Japan EPA which still needs to be ratifi ed by the European Parliament and the EU member states. Bulgaria took a pivotal role in Abe’s visit to Europe, as it currently holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union and is, thus, a key partner for Japan in its efforts towards a speedy ratifi cation of the EU-Japan EPA. During Abe’s visit to Bulgaria, both sides agreed to aim to ratify the agreement by 2018 so that it can come into effect by 2019. The EU-Japan EPA is a comprehensive trade and investment agreement that is intended to significantly go beyond the simple liberalisation of tariffs. It aims at overcoming trade and investment barriers in a wide variety of sectors and also addresses non-tariff trade barriers which 28 • Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Diplomatist • Vol 6 • Issue 4 • April 2018, Noida