BRUSSELS – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called for an ambitious free trade agreement between the European Union and Japan, saying before his first visit to the Asian country from Monday that the trade deal should not be a copy of the Trans-Pacific Partnership recently concluded by the United States, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim countries.
“The terms of the TPP deal can’t simply be copied and pasted into the EU-Japan agreement,” Rutte said in a written interview with Kyodo News prior to his two-day trip to Japan, referring to a difference between the Dutch agricultural sector “made up of relatively small family farms” and large-scale American farms.
The Dutch prime minister, who assumed his post in 2010, said he hopes the TPP agreement reached last month gives “fresh impetus” to the FTA negotiations between Japan and the European Union, and that Dutch “high-quality agricultural and dairy products like veal, milk and cheese will be made more accessible to Japanese consumers.”
“But the EU is not the U.S.,” Rutte warned. “I would like to see a highly comprehensive and ambitious trade deal and I hope it can be concluded as soon as possible,” he said. Tokyo and Brussels are hoping to strike a broad FTA deal by the end of this year.
Accompanied by Economic Affairs Minister Henk Kamp and more than 150 representatives from both the public and private sectors, Rutte hopes during his visit to boost trade between the Netherlands and Japan, especially in the agricultural and horticultural field.
“Dutch companies are pioneers in high-quality agriculture and horticulture. I have no doubt they can contribute to the modernization campaign that Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe has launched to boost the productivity of the Japanese agricultural sector,” he said.
“The Netherlands is the world’s second-largest exporter of agricultural goods after the U.S.,” the prime minister said, adding bilateral trade between his country and Japan amounted to nearly 11.6 billion euros ($12.46 billion) in 2014.
As for the Syrian refugee crisis, the Dutch leader said, “This is a global issue and it’s important that all prosperous countries do their part.” He added the Netherlands “welcomes any initiative on the part of the international community to further expand options for (refugee) reception.”
Rutte welcomed Japan’s new security law to expand the role of the Self-Defense Forces abroad, saying it “will enable Japan to make a more meaningful contribution to peacekeeping operations, protecting the international legal order and keeping major sea routes safe.”
Turning to the wartime history in which many Dutch people suffered under the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, a former Dutch colony, the prime minister said, “Our shared past remains a sensitive issue.”
But Rutte hailed Abe’s statement made in August on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, saying it “acknowledged the unbearable suffering of prisoners of war and expressed his endorsement of the Kono and Murayama Statements.”
The 1993 statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono offered a landmark apology to “comfort women,” which included Dutch nationals, procured to work in wartime Japanese military brothels.
The 1995 statement by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama expressed apology for the wartime suffering inflicted by Japan on Asian neighbors.