EU, Japan to sign massive trade deal in strong signal against Trump

"Together we are making - by signing this agreement - a statement about free and fair trade, we are showing that we are stronger and better off when we work together", added Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker.

This morning EU Council President Donald Tusk said of the deal: 'We are sending a clear message that we stand together against protectionism.

Abe said the agreement "shows the world the unshaken political will of Japan and the European Union to lead the world as the champions of free trade at a time when protectionism has spread".

Japan's Minister for Economic Revitalisation, Toshimitsu Motegi, said on Tuesday: "At a time when protectionist measures are gaining steam globally, the signing of the Japan-EU deal today will show the world once again our unwavering political will to promote free trade".

The deal eliminates about 99 percent of tariffs on Japanese goods entering the EU, and cuts roughly 94 percent of tariffs on European exports to Japan.

The European Union and Japan are signing a widespread trade deal Tuesday that will eliminate almost all tariffs, seemingly defying the worries about trade tensions set off by President Donald Trump's policies.

"This agreement will create an open trade zone covering almost a third of the world's GDP", he said.

Trump's administration has angered traditional allies like the European Union and Japan by imposing trade tariffs, while rattling worldwide markets by threatening a trade war with China.

Under the trade agreement, the European Union will open its market to Japan's auto industry, with Tokyo in return scrapping barriers to European Union farming products, especially dairy.

Japan's ambassador for global economic affairs, Yoichi Suzuki, has previously said it was 'a very high priority that [the deal] enter force before the end of March 2019, ' referring to the date when Britain is set to leave the EU.

Without mentioning Trump by name, Tusk made sharply clear that the agreement was intended as a counterpoint to Washington's current trade policy.

Tusk said: "Politically, it's a light in the increasing darkness of global politics".

He dismissed concerns about the effect on small businesses, suggesting USA trade policy was far more problematic.

Asked how he would respond to concerns that free trade could threaten jobs, Tusk responded: "Political uncertainty, tariff wars, excessive rhetoric, unpredictability, irresponsibility; they are a real risks for our businesses, not trade agreements".

The EU is seeking access to one of the world's richest markets, while Japan hopes to jump-start an economy that has struggled to find solid growth.

Trump pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Japan and 10 other states on his first day in office in January 2017 and has pushed to renegotiate a free trade pact with Canada and Mexico. The White House has imposed tariffs on EU steel and aluminum imports and has threatened to target European cars next.

The EU and Japan concluded several years of data talks in Tokyo in the margins of a bilateral summit and the deal should come into effect towards the end of this year, once the European Commission and the Japanese government have finalised details.

Tusk and Juncker arrived in Tokyo from Beijing, where they urged calm instead of "conflict" in worldwide trade.

The European Union yesterday called on the United States, China and Russian Federation to work together to cool worsening global trade tension, warning that they could spiral into violent "conflict and chaos".

Abe had been scheduled to sign the deal in Brussels last week, but cancelled his trip after devastating floods that killed more than 220 people.

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