Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and two European Union leaders agreed in a teleconference Monday to start official negotiations in April on a free trade and service pact in April, Japanese officials said.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and EU President Jose Manuel Barroso had originally planned to visit Tokyo to have a regular meeting with the Japanese leaders. But the two canceled their three-day tour to cope with the Cyprus financial crisis and instead talked to Abe by telephone.
“The leaders decided to launch negotiations for an agreement covering political, global and sectoral cooperation and an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) / Free Trade Agreement,” a joint statement released after the teleconference read.
During the 30-minute conversation, Abe also urged the EU to strictly maintain its ban on arm exports to China, given “the increasingly severe security environment in East Asia.”
The two leaders told Abe the EU has no plan to change the current policy, according to a senior Japanese government official who briefed reporters.
During the teleconference, the two European leaders briefed Abe about the situation in Cyprus, and Abe welcomed EU actions to contain the crisis, the official said.
The two EU leaders had planned to come to Tokyo on Sunday and meet Abe, Emperor Akihito, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Japanese business leaders on Monday.