Preparatory FTA talks with EU near end

Kyodo

Japanese and European Union authorities are likely to conclude preliminary talks for a future trade accord within weeks, business leaders of the two sides said Wednesday.

The so-called scoping exercise, aimed at identifying matters of mutual concern and interest related to a free-trade agreement, will conclude “probably in weeks,” Arianespace Chairman Jean-Yves Le Gall said at a news conference in Tokyo following a two-day meeting of the EU-Japan Business Round Table.

The forum of 50 Japanese and European business leaders is cochaired by Le Gall and Keidanren Chairman Hiromasa Yonekura.

The meeting was also attended by government officials from Japan and Europe.

In a statement after the meeting, the forum called on Japanese and European authorities to accelerate efforts to quickly conclude preparatory talks for a future trade accord.

The round table members “believe that significant bilateral business opportunities still lie ahead untapped despite the emergence of newly emerging economies,” the statement said.

The forum wants Japanese and European authorities to “expedite the remaining efforts necessary to complete their scoping activities on ambitious terms,” it said.

Japan and the European Union have been engaged in defining the scope and level of ambition of the free-trade negotiations, one of the steps before beginning formal talks.

Yonekura, who is also chairman of Sumitomo Chemical Co., said at the news conference that “Japan and the European Union are coming to a very critical stage for the start of formal negotiations for a free-trade agreement and an economic partnership agreement.”

The joint statement will soon be submitted to government leaders in Europe and Japan with the aim of having the recommendations of the business round table reflected in their talks, Yonekura said.

In addition to trade matters, forum participants discussed energy issues such as international support in the event of nuclear disasters and the development of renewable energies.