Japan, EU Push Forward On Trade Deal - Global Trade Magazine
  May 30th, 2016 | Written by

Japan, EU Push Forward On Trade Deal

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  • The possibility of an EU without the UK casts a shadow over trade negotiations.
  • Japanese business interests could back out of the UK is the UK leaves the EU.
  • Some Japanese businesses have locations in the UK precisely because of the country's connection to the EU.

Japan and the European Union (EU) are getting closer to a free trade agreement. For the UK government, and citizens of that country, that development is a factor to be considered in the looming Brexit decision, according to a report from the customs broker and freight forwarder Livingston International.

Brexit refers to the referendum being held on June 23 to decide whether the United Kingdom should exit the European Union, or remain.

According to Livingston, citing a report in The Japan Times, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and EU leaders concur that the two parties should speed up free trade negotiations with hopes they will come to an agreement by the end of the year. Abe disclosed the desire to move forward with discussions in a meeting with Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, the report said.

Negotiations on an EU-Japan FTA began in 2013, with an original anticipation of a deal by 2015.

“Our negotiations have progressed but now we must finish the job,” said Juncker, in a report on China.org.cn. “I am confident we can do this before the end of this year.”

Preoccupation in Tokyo with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), according to the Chinese media outlet, is what cuased the delay in the Japan-EU deal. “With TPP finalized, Tokyo has pivoted back toward the EU and recently completed the 16th round of negotiations on the agreement between the EU and Japan,” the Livingston report said.

As Japan and the EU begin a hoped-for final year of free trade negotiations, the UK is considering leaving the EU. Much as U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his preference for UK remain in the EU, Japan’s prime minister has done the same.

“Japan very clearly would prefer Britain to remain within the EU,” said Abe, according to The Telegraph.

“The possibility of an EU without the UK casts a shadow over trade negotiations,” said the Livingston report. “Japanese business interests could back out of the UK”

A number of Japanese businesses have locations in the UK precisely because of the country’s connection to the EU. If the country leaves the bloc, there’s a chance Japanese investors will back out of Britain, Abe is quoted as saying. Obama has similarly said that if the UK backs out of the EU, it will have to wait its turn for a free trade deal with the U.S.

“The possibility of the Brexit could throw off a number of established or in-progress trade deals, and make several new agreements necessary,” the Livingston report noted. “Whether Britons actually follow through with this course of action remains to be seen, but the implications are already emerging.”