EU-Japan: overall relationship

Political and legal basis  

EU-Japan relations are based on two key documents :                               

  • the Joint Declaration of 1991 [45 KB] on relations between the EU and Japan established common principles and shared objectives on politics, economic cooperation and culture, and agreed on annual bilateral meetings.
  • the Action Plan of 2001 [167 KB] (“Shaping our Common Future”) established a strong, results-oriented 10-year partnership (up to 2011). Its objectives were:
    • promoting peace and security
    • strengthening the economic and trade partnership
    • coping with global and societal challenges
    • bringing people and cultures together.


The Industrialised Countries Instrument (ICI) (EU Regulation 1934/2006), which promotes EU cooperation with other industrialised and other high-income countries including Japan, supports more intensive political cooperation, advancing EU economic interests, improving global networking, and raising awareness of the EU.

The EU has a number of agreements with Japan in specific fields. For full details of agreements concluded with Japan see the Treaties Office Database.

The EU cooperates closely with Japan in international organisations (UN, WTO, OECD, G20, international financial institutions, etc) and regional fora (ASEM).

The EU and Japan are currently negotiating new agreements (Framework Agreement, Free Trade Agreement).

Meetings and discussion fora

The annual EU-Japan summit between the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and the Japanese Prime Minister oversees the relationship and gives it political impetus.

Other meetings include:

  • ministerial meetings between the HRVP and the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • high-level consultations between senior officials in the EEAS and the Japanese government led by the Deputy Foreign Minister
  • dialogues on environment, trade policy, economic/financial policy, industrial policy and industrial cooperation, energy, telecommunications, science and technology, maritime transport, etc.
  • expert-level political dialogue between the EEAS and Japanese government officials on a range of geographical and theme-based issues (e.g. Eastern Europe, Middle East, Asia, UN matters, non-proliferation, human rights).
  • annual political discussion fora such as the EU-Japan Strategic Dialogues on Asia and on Central Asia
  • annual inter-parliamentary meetings between the European Parliament and the Japanese Diet - each of which have permanent committees dealing with EU-Japan relations.

Priorities for cooperation

  • Political - EU- Japan cooperation involves close and intensive political dialogue across a wide range of foreign and security policy issues, from the Middle East, Africa or Central Asia to issues like terrorism, non-proliferation, UN reform, human rights or security aspects of energy supply and climate change.

    Each side is active in the other’s geographical region. For example, Japan is interested and involved in Western Balkans region while the EU has a major political and economic stake in Asia’s peaceful development, and has, for example, actively supported international efforts to promote peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

  • Economic - Japan is the EU’s second biggest trading partner in Asia, after China. Together the EU and Japan account for more than a third of world GDP. Japan remains a major trade partner (and investor) for the EU and Europe is a very important market for Japan.

    In November 2012, the EU started negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with Japan. The negotiations will address EU concerns such as non-tariff barriers and the further opening of the public procurement market.
    Impact assessment of the future Free Trade Agreement .

    Specific actions in Japan under the Industrialised Countries Instrument (ICI) (EU Regulation 1934/2006) will build on the following existing initiatives:

    • EU Gateway Programme– helping small businesses enter the Japanese market through trade missions in specific economic sectors.
    • Executive Training Programme (ETP)– helping EU business executives gain an in-depth knowledge of Japanese business culture and language.
    • EU Institutes in Japan– improving awareness of the EU and its policies; facilitating and developing research work and studies on EU-related topics; developing EU-focused university-curriculum-related activities and courses; promoting outreach activities of various kinds including the organisation of cultural events, publications, conferences and lectures on the EU and its policies aimed at a wide audience.


The European Commission supports the EU-Japan Business Dialogue Round Table (EUJBDRT), a private-sector initiative to strengthen links between European and Japanese businesses by giving government authorities private-sector input to promote trade and investment between Europe and Japan.

See also:

EU-Japan bilateral trade relations

EU-Japan trade statistics

Cooperation with the Japan Fair Trade Commission