BRUSSELS – The European Union is insisting on a human rights clause linked to a proposed economic partnership agreement (EPA) with Japan, it was learned Monday.
In negotiations between the EU and Japan on a strategic partnership agreement (SPA), which are held in parallel with their EPA talks, the EU is calling for a clause that allows Brussels to suspend the EPA if Japan engages in human rights violations, informed sources said.
While the EU says the clause in the SPA also allows Japan to do the same if the EU violates human rights, Tokyo is strongly opposed to the demand, the sources said.
It is the EU’s basic strategy to call for democratization in developing or emerging countries in exchange for economic benefits. Japan is angry at the EU for trying to apply the policy for developing countries to a member of the Group of Seven major industrial nations.
In its free trade agreement talks with the United States, the EU does not call for the conclusion of a political pact like the SPA.
An EU official emphasizes that the human rights clause is unlikely to be invoked against Japan, but the EU issues a statement condemning capital punishment is cruel and inhuman every time when Japan executes a death-row inmate. The clause may exert tacit pressure on Japan from the EU, which aims for abolition of the death penalty.
The EU apparently believes that having Japan accept the human rights clause would make it easier to push for the clause in its future free trade agreement talks with China.
Japan argues that allowing the SPA to constrain the EPA poses legal questions. Since Japan has not concluded a pact like the SPA in its trade liberalization deals with other countries, Tokyo has told the EU that the clause may face opposition from the Cabinet Legislation Bureau even if it expresses acceptance in the negotiations.