During the 25thEU-Japan summit on 17thJuly in Tokyo, the EU and Japan signed two landmark agreements – namely the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) – which are expected to enhance EU-Japanese relations even further.
The EPA, which the President of the European Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, characterised as an agreement for an “open, fair and win-win trade”, will allow for an open trade zone for over 600 million people, between two markets which represent nearly one third of global GDP. The agreement will effectively remove billions of euros of duties, simplify customs procedures, and tackle behind-the-border barriers to trade, thus creating opportunities for companies to boost exports and expand their business.
For the EU in particular, the benefits of the EPA are numerous, especially for the EU agricultural sector, which will see the recognition of over 200 certified European delicacies opening to a market of 127 million consumers. The EPA will also open up services markets, including financial services, e-commerce, telecommunication and transport. It should be noted that the annual value for goods and services that EU firms already export to Japan amounts to €58 billion in goods and €28 billion in services.
The agreement foresees cooperation in other areas, likewise, and commits to sustainable development, while it includes a specific commitment to the Paris climate agreement. At the same time, it sets very high standards for labour, safety, environmental and consumer protection, and provides for the full safeguard of public services.
Finally, in terms of data protection, the EPA moves to recognise both countries’ systems as equivalent – through the adoption of “adequacy” decision, expected to be concluded this autumn – hence allowing for the safe flow of data between the EU and Japan. Notably, once adopted, it will constitute the world’s largest area of safe data flow. The agreement is expected to enter into force in 2019, following ratifications by the European Parliament and the Japanese Diet.
The second agreement which was signed during the summit in Tokyo was the first ever Strategic Partnership Agreement. The SPA defines an overarching and binding framework for enhanced cooperation across a wide range of sectors, as well as cooperation in new areas, ranging from science, technology and innovation, environment and energy, to climate change and security.
Both agreements aim at strengthening the long-standing partnership between the EU and Japan, enhancing their bilateral cooperation and cooperation in international and regional organisations, and helping the promotion of global peace, stability and prosperity, and of an open international system. The EU and Japan have agreed to continue negotiations for convergence on investment protections standards and investment protection dispute resolution.
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