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Issue No. 2, 2009

Strengthening economic ties between Japan and the EU

The EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation hosted, on 17 February 2009 in Brussels, a seminar on Enhancing EU-Japan Economic Cooperation.  Co-organised by the European Commission and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the event brought together decision-makers and industry representatives to consider the scope of future economic cooperation between the EU and Japan.

The keynote speakers at this event were David O’Sullivan, Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Trade (DG Trade), and Hiroyuki Ishige, Vice-Minister for International Affairs at METI.

Noting that the percentage of EU-Japan trade in Japan’s total trade volume has stood below the mid-teens for many years, Mr Ishige attributed this situation to strong competition from emerging economies such as China and India.  He emphasised that there was, nevertheless, great “potential for EU-Japan trade to grow”, and reference was made to the rising expectations of both Japanese and European industries in this regard.  A set of joint industry recommendations back in February 2008 had already stressed the need for proactive initiatives.

The EU-Japan Economic Integration Agreement advocated by the EU and Japanese private sectors would move beyond existing Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) or Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).  It would address wide-ranging issues in the following areas:

During a panel discussion chaired by Jörn Keck, Vice-President of the Asia Institute Europe, John Farnell, Director at the Commission’s Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry (DG ENTR), presented his views on how to further develop economic ties between Europe and Japan.

Mr Farnell began by stating that both parties shared many common values and objectives—namely, the promotion of global peace and stability in a changing world, shared responsibility with respect to the global economic system against the background of an “unprecedented economic crisis”, as well as a strong commitment to meeting the challenges of environmental sustainability.  Cooperation, he said, should therefore be the solution to “our common problems”.

Farnell expressed doubts, however, over the utility of “over-ambitious and comprehensive trade negotiations between us”, suggesting instead that “a more efficient and short-term action would be to demonstrate that divergent regulatory approaches could be overcome in specific fields.”

JAMA welcomes the initiatives by the European Commission and METI to enhance trade between the EU and Japan, and looks forward to closer cooperation in future at the highest levels.