Japan and European Union sign trade agreement amid worries about Trump’s trade war

Japan and European Union sign trade agreement amid worries about Trump’s trade war

Japan and the European Union signed a sweeping free trade deal Tuesday saying they were sending a "clear message" against protectionism, as Washington puts up barriers and threatens a trade war.

The Japan-EU Free Trade Agreement will eliminate almost all tariffs between the bloc and the world's third biggest economy.

The ceremony came amid spreading protectionism driven by U.S. President Donald Trump's "America First" agenda and an intensifying trade row between the United States and China.

Baker McKenzie partner Ross Denton said the deal signed Tuesday sends "a very strong signal to the US Administration that the European Union and Japan, two major trade partners of the US, both see the benefits of removing barriers and reducing, not increasing tariffs".

The deal was also struck amid turmoil in Britain with the United Kingdom yet to agree how its final trading relationship with the European Union will work after Brexit. It was previously reported that if the deal does enter into force before Brexit, it could apply automatically to Britain during a post-March 2019 transition period of around two years.

"We are sending a clear message that we stand together against protectionism", EU Council President Donald Tusk said after the agreement was signed.

At a EU-Japan summit Tuesday in Tokyo, the envoys were clear that the agreement was meant to send a message about the value of trade and cooperation.

'There is no protection in protectionism, ' he said.

"It is the common duty of Europe and China, but also America and Russian Federation, not to destroy (the global trade order) but to improve it, not to start trade wars which turned into hot conflicts so often in our history", Tusk said Monday in Beijing.

The signing had been due to take place in Brussels on July 11, but Abe was forced to cancel his trip after torrential rains triggered flooding and landslides in Japan that killed about 220 people.

Both sides are heralding the deal, which covers a third of the global economy and more than 600 million people. Japan will no more levy duties on European cheese and wines. According the European Commission, the deal is projected to eliminate just under $1.2 billion worth of tariffs for EU exporters and double the amount for Japanese firms.

The major step toward liberalizing trade was discussed in talks since 2013 but is striking in the timing of the signing, as China and the US are embroiled in trade conflicts.

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". The administration has already signalled extra levies on Chinese goods worth an additional $200 billion, and is studying a plan to impose a 25 percent levy on auto imports.

The EU will eliminate tariffs on 99 per cent of imports from Japan.

The deal has been in the works for years, but the parties reached an agreement in principle several months after President Trump pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major trade deal with Japan and 10 other nations. Japan's growth remains heavily dependent on exports.

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