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Policy Proposals  Trade, Investment, EPA/FTA Chairman Calls on European Leaders to Start Negotiations on an EU-Japan FTA/EPA

26 April 2012

Chairman Hiromasa Yonekura has written to the European political and business leaders, calling for negotiations on an EU-Japan FTA/EPA to start as soon as possible.

The political leaders to whom the letters are addressed are: President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian President of the Council of Ministers Mario Monti and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

The letters were also sent to President Jürgen Thumann of BUSINESSEUROPE, President Roger Carr of CBI (Confederation of British Industry), President Hans-Peter Keitel of BDI (Federation of German Industries), President Laurence Parisot of MEDEF (French Business Confederation), President-designate Giorgio Squinzi of CONFINDUSTRIA (Confederation of Italian Industries) , President Juan Rosell Lastortras of CEOE (The Spanish Confederation of Employers' Organizations) and President Henryka Bochniarz of Lewiatan (Polish Confederation of Private Employers).

With a firm conviction that business dialogues on a sectoral basis would be effective in working toward an EU-Japan FTA/EPA, we at Keidanren have encouraged major industrial circles to promote dialogues with their European counterparts. Sectoral dialogues have already been conducted between the EU and Japan on various platforms and have succeeded in resolving some common challenges.

On 7 March this year BUSINESSEUROPE and KEIDANREN held in Brussels a joint meeting between key European and Japanese industrial associations. As was reported to the Annual Meeting of the EU-Japan Business Round Table (BRT) held in Tokyo on 3-4 April, the March joint meeting provided a good opportunity for those who attended to realize the common tasks they face to create a seamless business environment of Europe and Japan.

Against this background as like mentioned in his letters, Chairman Yonekura says "at the top of the list of common challenges is harmonization and mutual recognition of regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures that could be applied to third country markets." He continues, "As the center of gravity of the global economy shifts to the east, it is imperative for the EU and Japan, which share such basic values as democracy, rule of law and a commitment to the market economy, to take the lead in making business rules and setting standards for goods and services, and to join forces to have emerging economies on board with us." "A comprehensive, ambitious and forward-looking EU-Japan FTA/EPA would constitute an important step towards such a rule-based and transparent business environment," Chairman brings one of the significance of the FTA/EPA to the attention of the leaders.

Both the EU and Japan also have to put themselves back on track for growth and jobs, without compromising fiscal consolidation. There are no quick fixes, but further efforts are definitely needed to promote growth and employment. Chairman Yonekura expresses his belief, "one of the actions which should be taken at the EU level is the delivery of open global markets by deepening trade and investment relationships with strategic partners." He emphasizes, "In this context an FTA/EPA with Japan, which is still the third-largest economy in the world, possesses high technology and boasts a network of FTA/EPAs in Asia, would benefit the EU more than any agreement the EU has concluded in the past." For Japan as well, it has been among our top national priorities to conclude a series of FTA/EPAs with major economic partners, including the EU, which is the largest single market in the world.

In order to move forward in this direction, "it is crucial that we find win-win solutions for non-tariff measures (NTMs)," says Chairman Yonekura. In this respect he calls the leaders' attention to the fact that "the Government Revitalization Unit of the Government of Japan is deliberating further regulatory reforms in a proactive and steadfast manner for the good of Japan's economy, including NTMs in areas in which the EU has shown interest, such as automotive, electronic & telecommunications equipment, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and food safety." Some other NTMs have also been tackled based on the EU's requests.

Chairman Yonekura met last week with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. In his letters to the leaders he says that Prime Minister Noda "noted that he would exercise leadership toward regulatory and institutional reforms in areas of interest to the EU." He continues, "I can assure you that FTA/EPA negotiations backed by firm political commitment could deliver results totally different from those of past dialogues held at the administrative level."

As Chairman Yonekura makes a vow in his letters to the leaders, "we at KEIDANREN will continue to encourage various industrial associations to deepen dialogue with their European counterparts" in order to "facilitate the process at the government level and prevent new problems from arising."

Trade, Investment, EPA/FTA