The European Union isn’t planning to start talks with Japan on a bilateral free-trade agreement, the director general for trade at the European Commission said Monday at a news conference in Tokyo.
“This issue is not on the agenda,” EU trade official David O’Sullivan said. He was asked about the possibility in light of the EU and South Korea planning to announce their intention to start talks on a such deal in May.
Japanese business leaders are concerned that if an EU-South Korea FTA takes effect, some Japanese industries, including appliance makers, would lose European market share to their South Korean rivals.
“For the European Union, the multilateral process remains the top priority and the thing we most want to see in the short term is a successful outcome of the DDA negotiations,” O’Sullivan said, referring to the Doha Development Agenda under the World Trade Organization.
“Any bilateral FTAs are WTO-plus and Doha-plus, and not Doha-instead,” said O’Sullivan, who was in Tokyo for talks with senior trade officials at Monday’s inaugural Japan-EU High Level Trade Dialogue.
O’Sullivan warned that WTO members must seriously consider the “systemic implication” for the WTO of putting in place a network of FTAs between “the elephants of the trading world,” suggesting that an FTA between Japan and the European Union or one between Japan and the United States would undermine the multilateral trade liberalization process under the WTO.
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