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Abe, EU leaders to discuss plan to mesh auto standards

Kyodo, JIJI

To cut vehicle development costs and facilitate approval processes, the government is considering conforming to European Union automobile safety and environmental standards, sources said Thursday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will discuss the issue with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy when they meet Monday, the sources said.

The leaders are expected to declare the launch of formal negotiations for a bilateral free-trade agreement.

If the standards are shared, car manufacturers in Japan and the European Union, currently subject to different safety and environmental criteria, would not need to go through a separate approval process for exports, they said.

In the initial negotiations for an FTA, Japan is expected to urge the European Union to remove a 10 percent import tax on Japanese cars, while the 27-nation bloc is expected to call on Japan to revise its automobile safety standards, which it considers nontariff barriers, the sources said.

Meanwhile, a draft statement to be adopted at Monday’s meeting also touches on international political issues. The two sides will express concerns over North Korea’s nuclear arms and missile threats, Iran’s nuclear program and the potential use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The draft strongly condemns January’s terrorist attacks in Algeria that killed many Japanese gas plant workers, among other foreigners.