On 7 May, presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission, Herman van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso met with Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan at the 22nd EU-Japan summit held in Brussels. Mr. Abe, for whom this was the last day of his nine-day European tour, brought the attention to the prospect of successful conclusion of the negotiated EU-Japan free trade agreement. He expressed his belief, that the talks will be concluded by the end of 2015. The free trade agreement with Japan was brought to agenda by the Commission one year ago. The Council authorized the Commission to proceed, however, there were many indications, that there is a lack of strong commitment among the Member States´ representatives. The reason thereof is the Japanese stance concerning the regulations and restrictions that foreign companies are facing on the Japanese market. The Council gave the Commission 12 months to present progress in negotiations concerning these areas. Mr. Abe stated, that Japan has made serious commitments in this matter.
The planned free trade agreement is one of the several the EU is negotiating, or has successfully concluded recently, with leading world economies following the hindered progress of the global talks at the WTO level. EU and Japan are 2 of the 4 top global economies and a comprehensive free trade area could help both in their sluggish growth. As stated above, the main focus of the talks are the “behind-the-border barriers”, such as regulations and standards. It is now believed, that the Member States will authorize the continuation of the talks. In such case, according to President Barroso, the free trade agreement should be very ambitious to have a meaning.
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