Japan and the European Union will hold working-level talks on a bilateral free trade agreement from April 3 to 5, with Tokyo's contingent headed by a new chief negotiator, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.
The latest round of talks in the capital comes after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed in Brussels on March 21 to aim for an early, broad agreement on the trade deal.
Yoichi Suzuki, the Japanese government representative for Free Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement Negotiations, will take the helm of the Japanese delegation as chief negotiator and Mauro Petriccione, deputy director-general of the Directorate-General for Trade at the European Commission, will head negotiations for the European Union.
Suzuki, who replaces Koji Haneda, previously served as the Japanese ambassador to France and has vast experience in trade negotiations, previously holding posts such as the director-general of the Foreign Ministry's Economic Affairs Bureau.
Both sides have expressed their commitment to closing a deal amid the increasing global protectionist sentiment stoked by President Donald Trump pulling the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
But sticking points remain over gaining better access to the European market for Japanese farmers' agricultural products and on the removal of EU tariffs on Japanese cars.
Due to the outstanding issues, the two sides gave up their initial goal to conclude the deal by the end of 2016.