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European Parliament Vice President Pedro Silva Pereira says he expects further positive effects from the European Union’s economic partnership agreement with Japan, which marked its first anniversary at the beginning of the month.

“The first impression that we have is quite positive,” Silva Pereira said in a recent interview, citing a year-on-year rise of 6.6 percent in EU exports to Japan over the 10 months to November last year.

“I would say that the relationship between Europe and Japan is now perhaps at the very best moment ever in our common history,” he said.

Silva Pereira was in charge of European Parliament deliberations on the free trade deal early on in the Japan-EU negotiations. For his dedicated efforts to expand support for the deal, he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, by the government last autumn.

“I’m glad that we were successful in negotiating this economic partnership agreement,” the Portuguese politician said. “It is fair to say that this is the most progressive agreement ever concluded in the world.”

The deal created a free-trade bloc accounting for 40 percent of global trade.

The EPA talks ran into difficulties after kicking off in 2013. But the situation changed when U.S. President Donald Trump was inaugurated in January 2017.

Trump decided to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement with Japan and 10 other countries. U.S. talks to conclude a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal with the EU then hit a deadlock.

Alarmed, Japan and the EU accelerated trade talks and reached a deal at the end of 2017.

Trump made “a historic mistake,” but his moves “also gave us an opportunity to work together in order to send a powerful and strong message in favor of an open, fair and rule-based trading order (and) against the protectionist wave and the trade war,” Silva Pereira said.

The EPA includes provisions to protect the environment, workers and consumers, providing “a chance to promote high standards for trade in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

Referring to other fields such as digitization, data flows and measures against climate change, Silva Pereira said he sees “a lot of things we can do together.”

Concerns are growing over how Britain’s exit from the EU might affect Japanese companies in Europe. If Britain abides by Europe’s rules for the region’s single market and for high levels of environmental and labor protections, trade will remain smooth, he said.

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