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EU, Japan Agree ‘in Principle’ on Trade Deal | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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European Council President Donald Tusk (right) and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker (center) with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. John Thys/AFP file photo

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and top EU officials agreed on Thursday the broad outline of a landmark trade deal, signaling opposition to protectionism championed by US President Donald Trump.

“Today we agreed in principle on an Economic Partnership Agreement (with Japan), the impact of which goes far beyond our shores,” European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker announced at a joint press conference with Abe and EU President Donald Tusk in Brussels. 

The breakthrough capped four years of talks and came ahead of a G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany at which Trump is expected to defend his protectionist stance on trade.

“This accord is not just about trade but above all the shared values of our societies: democracy, rule of law and human rights,” said Tusk, a former Polish prime minister.

The EU and Japanese economies combined account for more than a quarter of global output making the deal one of the biggest trade pacts ever attempted.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said on Thursday that the UK is seeking a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement with the EU which will allow trade to be as frictionless as possible once it has left the bloc.

Earlier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned British ministers and businesses who are calling for “frictionless trade” with the EU after Britain leaves that it is “not possible”.

Asked about the comments, the spokesman told reporters: “We’ve set out our relationship that we seek … we want a comprehensive free trade agreement and a new customs agreement which allows for trade which is as frictionless as possible.”

“Obviously we are just at the beginning of the negotiations, but I would say that the most frictionless as possible trade between the UK and the EU is clearly in the interests of both sides.”