Biz leaders call for swift EU FTA

Kyodo

Japanese and European Union business leaders called Monday for the swift conclusion of a free-trade agreement between the two economies, and the two parties were expected to officially declare the launch of negotiations later in the day.

“For companies facing cutthroat global competition each day, speed is very important,” said Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of Keidanren, at a luncheon meeting with leaders of European companies in Japan. “We yearn for the conclusion of an economic partnership agreement between Japan and the European Union as soon as possible.”

The first round of negotiations between the European Union and Japan, which together account for around 30 percent of global gross domestic product, could start as early as April.

At the meeting, European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht expressed hope that Japan would make progress in its efforts on removing nontariff trade barriers over the next year and warned that negotiations would be suspended if progress has not been satisfactory.

“We should together do our utmost to get over this one-year deadline and be able to continue negotiations without any breakages in the process,” he said.

Noting that negotiating the FTA “will not be easy,” De Gucht said concluding a comprehensive FTA that embraces a wide range of issues including services, investments, procurements and regulation issues will “require continuous, full commitment and determination at the highest political level.”

Duco Delgorge, chairman of the European Business Council in Japan, also called for the swift conclusion of the free-trade negotiations, saying open markets are “essential for continued prosperity and growth.”

“Now the EU-Japan relationship cannot be left behind any longer,” he said.