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Summary of the Symposium
on Strengthening and Integrating Japan-EU Economic Relations

February 23, 2011
Nippon Keidanren

On February 23, 2011, Nippon Keidanren hosted a symposium at the Keidanren Kaikan in Otemachi, Tokyo, on the subject of "Strengthening and Integrating Japan-EU Economic Relations." The symposium was planned on the occasion of the visit to Japan of Professor Vital Moreira, Chairman of the Committee on International Trade of the European Parliament, which since the Lisbon Treaty came into effect has assumed an important role in the decision-making process of the European Union's trade policy. About 180 persons participated in the symposium from Nippon Keidanren member companies, European embassies in Tokyo, and other institutions. (The symposium program is appended hereto.)

In the opening remarks Mr. Shinichi Yokoyama, Co-Chairman of Nippon Keidanren Committee on Europe, reviewed what Nippon Keidanren has done to date to strengthen the economic relationship between Japan and the EU, including a series of proposals concerning a Japan-EU Economic Integration Agreement (EIA), and urged strongly that government leaders agree to launch negotiations for an EIA at the forthcoming Japan-EU Summit this spring. He emphasized that Japan and the EU are already in agreement on comprehensively strengthening and integrating their economic relations, and that the only issue still to be discussed is the ways in which to do so.

Then Professor Moreira, representing the European Parliament whose consent is needed to start negotiations, maintained in his keynote speech that two conditions must be met. The first condition is that both sides be convinced that there is room for an ambitious, balanced and reciprocally advantageous agreement, and the second is that a strong, consistent, and sustainable political will is in place along with preparedness to make the concessions and compromises necessary to conclude the agreement. He expressed his strong hope that these prerequisites would be fulfilled.

Mr. Shinichi Nishimiya, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, explained the current status of the joint examination by the joint High-Level Group (HLG) on ways to comprehensively strengthen and integrate the Japan-EU economic relationship, which is based on last year's Summit leaders' agreement. He first described what the HLG has achieved so far, including the completion of the so-called pilot projects process to tackle non-tariff measures such as the four specific issues requested by the EU side. And with regard to other non-tariff measures he expressed the intention of the Government of Japan (GOJ) to show its capability and will to deal with them seriously, including through legal reform within the context of EIA negotiations once they have started.

For his part, Ambassador Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Japan, asserted that the Japan-EU relationship should not be examined only from the economic and trade aspects, but needed a more extensive framework. He also pointed out that European-made cars' share in the Japanese market, the ratio of inward foreign direct investment to Japan's GDP, and foreign companies' share of the government procurement market in Japan all remained at low levels. He expressed his hope that the joint examination would lead to decisions that would be mutually beneficial for both Japan and the EU.

Prior to the panel discussion, Professor Yorizumi Watanabe of the Faculty of Policy Management, SFC, Keio University made some recommendations concerning the EIA. They were that (1) the EIA should be more clearly defined, (2) any agreements concluded between Japan and the EU should be consistent with the WTO rules, and (3) in starting negotiations both parties should confirm the principle that nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.

In the discussion on the appropriate "next steps" for leaders to decide on for strengthening and integrating Japan-EU economic relations at this year's EU-Japan Summit, Mr. Tommy Kullberg, Chairman of the European Business Council in Japan, pointed out that the only option for resolving non-tariff issues such as the regulations faced by both Japanese and European companies in the Japanese market is to conduct negotiations that are legally binding, and emphasized that protectionism will lead to stagnation, while competition will bring about development.

Mr. Hitoshi Kawaguchi, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) and Senior Vice President of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., and Mr. Masahide Tanigaki, Sub-Committee Chairman of Nippon Keidanren's Committee on Europe and Vice President and Executive Officer of Hitachi, Ltd., expressed the view that in order to ensure a level playing field in the European market and to build an equal partnership, leaders should agree to start negotiations for an EIA at the upcoming Japan-EU Summit, and urged both governments to accelerate their efforts.

Mr. Toshihide Kasutani, Director-General of the Multilateral Trade System Department of the Trade Policy Bureau, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), commented that it is also essential to ensure a level playing field in the European market so that Europe can serve as a base for exports to third-country markets, and that Japan and the EU should join forces to tackle issues of mutual concern such as export restrictions on natural resources. He vowed that the GOJ would make the utmost efforts to launch negotiations for an EIA, and pointed out that Japan and the EU should pursue the creation of high-level rules through an EIA, thereby contributing to post-Doha WTO rule-making. On the subject of non-tariff measures he said that, by such means as shortening the time required for identifying the points of concern, the GOJ would seek balanced agreement under high-level political commitment.

Ambassador Schweisgut observed that while it is clear that Japan's interest lay in abolishing tariffs, it is also apparent that the EU's interest lay in dismantling non-tariff barriers. The Ambassador expanded on his observation, adding that since non-tariff barriers are more complex it would be necessary for the Japanese side to present a roadmap in order to convince the EU side to embark on negotiations with Japan. Professor Moreira then stated the view that it is important to change European companies' perception that exporting to Japan is difficult in various respects, and that unless the EU side is convinced that the Japanese side will deal properly with non-tariff barriers and that there is sufficient room for negotiation, the desired results will not be achieved even if negotiations are launched.

In response to these comments from the EU side, Mr. Kawaguchi of the JAMA said it was essential to take the perspective that the conclusion of an EIA would lead to the expansion of economic relations and industrial cooperation, citing the example of the Japan-Mexico Economic Partnership Agreement, under which, he explained, the abolition of tariffs on completed cars and parts exported to Mexico resulted in Japanese carmakers expanding production there. Mr. Tanigaki of Nippon Keidanren then emphasized that if a level playing field is secured, cooperation between Japanese and EU companies in research and development would be further deepened on the basis of the groundwork that has already been laid.

The symposium was then brought to an end by closing remarks from Professor Watanabe, who acted as moderator for the panel discussion. He commented that it was important for both sides to send out a signal that they will pursue the strengthening and integration of Japan-EU economic relations in a comprehensive manner that encompasses not only tariffs but also non-tariff measures, and that as Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, the founder of a united Europe, once said, it is important that pessimism of the intellect be surmounted by optimism of the will. He expressed his hope that, with the strong political will being shown by Prime Minister Naoto Kan to open-up Japan and promote economic partnerships, this symposium, in which Professor Moreira said that challenges cannot be met without political will, would mark the first step towards surmounting difficulties with optimism.

Symposium on Strengthening and Integrating Japan-EU Economic Relations

Date & Venue:at 14:00-16:00, Wednesday 23 February, 2011
at International Conference Room, 2nd floor, Keidanren Building
Language:Japanese-English Simultaneous Interpretation
  1. Opening Remarks by Mr. Shinichi Yokoyama
    Co-Chairman, Committee on Europe, Nippon Keidanren
  2. Keynote Speech by Professor Vital Moreira
    Chairman, Committee on International Trade, European Parliament
    "EU-Japan Economic and Trade Relations: Challenges and Opportunities"
  3. Remarks from Government
    "Current Situations of the joint examination conducted by the joint High Level Group"
    Mr. Shinichi Nishimiya, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs
    Mr. Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, Ambassador, Delegation of the EU to Japan
  4. Remarks by Professor Yorizumi Watanabe, Keio University SFC
  5. Panel Discussion
    Professor Vital Moreira, Chairman, Committee on International Trade, European Parliament
    Mr. Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, Ambassador, Delegation of the EU to Japan
    Mr. Tommy Kullberg, Chairman, European Business Council in Japan
    Mr. Toshihide Kasutani, Director-General, Multilateral Trade System Department,
    Trade Policy Bureau, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
    Mr. Hitoshi Kawaguchi, Chairman of Executive Committee, Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association,
    Senior Vice President, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
    Mr. Masahide Tanigaki, Chairman of Sub-Committee of Committee on Europe, Nippon Keidanren
    Vice President and Executive Officer, Hitachi, Ltd.
    Professor Yorizumi Watanabe, Keio University SFC
  6. Closing

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