The Executive Seminar “Building a Bridge between the Asia Pacific and the EU: The Strategic Significance of the EU-Japan FTA/EPA”, co-organised on February 10th, 2016 in Paris by JETRO and the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation, was a good opportunity for stakeholders to assess the current state of the trade negotiations as well as to reflect upon the whole process.
Indeed, while it was announced in 2015 that both parties would like to speed up the process and to finalise a “deal” by the end of the year, no breakthrough has been announced so far. Apparently, from the roundtable comments, it seems that both parties have acquired a “good understanding” of each other’s positions and that some progress has been made in taking Non-Tariff Measures, but that serious negotiations are is still needed.
Meanwhile, the flexibility within the TPP agreement seems to have made possible an early deal (November 2015) for the 12 related countries. The pact concerns Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. It now awaits approval by each of the dozen members’ legislatures — a potentially contentious and lengthy process.
According to the Japan Times, ” some provisions in the 1,500-page document allow for nations to renegotiate terms and rules in some cases after a certain period of time. Such conditional arrangements helped them to conclude more than five years of intensive talks. The text also says multiple countries will relax visa requirements to let workers and their families relocate more easily. One of the provisions in the text allows nations to discuss the bringing forward of phased tariff abolition at the request of partners.
The 12 countries will also review within 3 years of entry into force (of the agreement) and at least every 5 years thereafter the economic relationship and partnership” among them and “consider any proposal to amend or modify the pact, according to the text. The Japanese government will remove tariffs on 95.1 percent of imported products, compared with the abolition of duties on nearly 100 percent of imported items by other members, as tariffs will remain for some agricultural products.”
During the Seminar’s roundtable, experts agreed on the need for Europe to speed up the negotiation process, as other trade blocks (like Japan and the US) have already concluded various trade deals worldwide: Europe is left behind in the race and could loose some bargaining power when negotiating new “deals”!!
Further, not having a “deal” right now in the Food Industry means that European exporters will loose ground against a huge amount of exporters originating from the TPP zone and will ultimately loose business as well as market shares. More concretely, Danish pork subject to 100% tariffs will have little chance to compete with US pork exempt of tariffs !!! Further, the removal of restrictions should also concern Services (representing 80% of the economy in both blocks) and not only focus on Product Market Access!
To conclude, in order to protect its interests, the EU should move ahead fast on the base of what has already been agreed or negotiated and sign a deal with Japan very soon (in March 2016), eventually putting aside problematic sectors (like Railways business) or complex issues (like Public Procurement) where more time is needed for new NTM implementation and monitoring. Negotiations should however continue after the “deal” which would be reviewed and amended 3 years later, for example.
What do you think?