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Japan-EU Bonn meet yields no breakthrough in FTA talks


EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Japan’s foreign minister Fumio Kishida held a meeting in Bonn, Germany, today, taking stock of ongoing free trade agreement talks as these appear to have stumbled.

As previously reported by us, the more than three-year old trade negotiations with Japan have stuttered in the fist weeks of 2017 after having seen an acceleration late last year. Two new stumbling blocks have appeared: a reform process in Japan’s agricultural sector which makes the administration reluctant to rock the boat further with Japanese farmers at this stage, and uncertainty over the future of the TPP. Japan fears a potential move to a bilateral deal with the United States instead could lead the US to make more agriculture market access demands to Japan. If Japan is seeing as making concessions to the EU, Tokyo fears this would fuel US appetites.

“Negotiations are very advanced”, Cecilia Malmström stated today. “While it was not possible to conclude by the end of 2016, as we had hoped, tremendous progress has been registered over the last few months. As often in a negotiation, the few remaining issues are the most difficult to be solved, but I am confident that the distance between our respective positions can be bridged soon”, said Commissioner Malmström.

Among the ‘remaining issues’ are e-commerce and free data flows where the EU is defensive, the EU-proposed bilateral investment court which Japan doesn’t like, and public procurement. The EU is ready to offer Japan full tariff eliminations in autos – one of its main demands on the EU – if it receives enough concessions on agriculture and other matters.

No new dates were set on a new negotiation round, in a sign talks are stagnant