BRUSSELS – A senior European Commission official has said talks between the EU and Japan on an economic partnership agreement will likely begin around March.
It would come as a surprise if EU member countries are unable to agree by Christmas to launch EPA negotiations with Japan, the official said Tuesday.
But even if discussions start next spring as hoped, it would still take about four years to conclude a pact and an additional two for it to be ratified and take effect, the official added, indicating an EPA would take effect in 2018 at the earliest.
The European Union needs to win consent from all of its 27 member states to start talks on a free trade accord with a country outside the bloc. But Germany, France and Italy, which all have major automotive industries, remain wary of kicking off talks because it might result in a flood of Japanese imports that would harm their own carmakers.
The European Commission has indicated to member countries that any future EPA negotiations between the EU and Japan would be discontinued if Tokyo fails to remove nontariff trade barriers within a year of their launch.
According to the official, this should go some way to convincing Germany, France and Italy to give their consent by the end of the year to start the trade talks.
FTA eyed with Colombia
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos have agreed to enter talks on forging a bilateral free-trade agreement.
Their meeting, held Tuesday in New York on the fringes of the U.N. General Assembly, followed a report in July that urged the start of FTA talks, based on joint research conducted by the private and public sectors.
The two sides will work out the exact schedule for starting discussions on a free-trade deal, according to a Japanese official. The two sides agreed in September last year to start joint research on an FTA.
Japan mainly exports industrial goods, such as automobiles, to Colombia, while the South American country mostly exports coffee and other farm produce to the Japanese market.