EU Parliament committee green light for Japan trade pact

November 09, 2018 - Belgium

The European Parliament’s trade committee recently recommended approving the European Union’s (EU) Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan that will eventually remove almost all tariffs on goods. It opens up services, including e-commerce, maritime transport, postal services, energy and telecommunications, creating common rules and standards for both.

The resolution was passed by 26 votes for, nine against and two abstentions. The recommendation to consent was passed by 25 votes for, ten against, and one abstention.

The European Parliament, which has to give its consent before the deal can enter into force, is expected to vote its consent to the agreement at its December plenary session. If the deal is approved in Parliament, it can enter into force as soon as the Japanese Diet ratifies it.

The committee members emphasised that the agreement “represents a timely signal in support of open, fair, values-based and rules-based trade, while promoting high standards, at a time of serious protectionist challenges to the international order,” according to a press release from the European Parliament.

The committee also commended Japan for opening up the procurement markets, including in 54 large cities and in the railway equipment sector, allowing EU suppliers to compete on this market. Another sector that the committee estimates would benefit most from the deal is agriculture and the food industry, especially wine, pork, and cheese producers.

The committee also welcomed the high level of environmental and labour protection enshrined in the deal and the commitment to the Paris Agreement to combat climate change.

It stressed that Japan must ratify all relevant labour codes set by the International Labour Organisation. The two remaining codes that are yet to be ratified are on discrimination and on the abolition of forced labour.

The committee also urged the European Commission to set up contact points for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), which figure for the first time in a dedicated chapter in an EU trade deal, so that they can quickly benefit from the agreement. Seventy eight per cent of EU companies exporting to Japan are SMEs.

Signed on 17 July this year, the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement creates a trade zone of 600 million people and covers a third of global gross domestic product and about 40 per cent of global trade. (DS)