Japan, EU sign free trade agreement

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Tokyo, July 17 (IANS) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and European Union (EU) leaders signed a free trade agreement on Tuesday, eliminating tariffs on a majority of their products to enhance business between the two sides.

Abe, during talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk, described the deal as momentous, while trumpeting the virtues of free trade versus protectionism, Xinhua news agency reported.

During the meeting in Tokyo prior to the signing ceremony, Abe described the deal as a “historic achievement”.

Abe was predominantly referring to the protectionist trade policies being pushed by US President Donald Trump. The US policies saw both Japan and the EU slapped with tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium exports.

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The pact signed on Tuesday, which will come into effect by March 2019, will see Japan eliminate tariffs on 94 per cent of all imports from EU. The single bloc eurozone, for its part, will eliminate tariffs on 99 per cent of imports from Japan.

Tariffs on Japan’s automobile exports will be erased by EU in 2027, while those of TVs will be eliminated in 2025, according to the pact.

The agreement between Japan and EU will lead to the creation of one of the world’s largest economic blocs and will constitute around 30 per cent of global gross domestic product, according to economists’ predictions.

Both sides also signed a partnership agreement aiming to enhance bilateral cooperation on numerous areas ranging from security, cybercrime and climate change.

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