Approved by Members of European Parliament, the agreement will remove almost all custom duties adding up to an estimated €1bn annual saving for EU companies.
Under the agreement, wine, cheese, beef, pork, pasta, chocolate and biscuits will enter duty-free either immediately or after a transition period, while 205 products with European geographical indications will be protected, to help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) which make up 78% of exporters to Japan. The agreement will create a trade zone of 600 million people, and covers a third of global GDP and about 40 percent of global trade.
The agreement was approved with 472 votes to 152, with 40 abstentions. Japan has already ratified the agreement. After the endorsement of the trade deal by the European Parliament, Council is set to give its final go-ahead on 21 December which allows the agreement to enter into force on 1 February 2019. For the strategic partnership agreement to enter into force, all member states have to ratify it.
“This approval is a key milestone for fair trade based on rules and values, amid rising protectionism. The agreement will help promote high standards and strengthen sustainable development in trade policy,” said Pedro Silva Pereira (S&D, PT), the rapporteur in charge of the trade agreement. “The European Parliament is sending a very progressive message and will continue to do its part, so that the biggest EU bilateral trade agreement truly works for both citizens and businesses.”
EU farming body Copa Cogeca had urged MEPs to vote in favour of the agreement, saying that “Japan is among the strategic export destinations for EU agri-food products, with further potential for growth”.
In a statement, it said: “The agreed elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, the protection of European geographical indications (GIs), and future cooperation on agriculture and food related matters will create new export opportunities for a wide range of products and help to better respond to changing consumer demands in each other’s economies.”