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The European Parliament gave its consent to the EU’s trade agreement with Japan, the largest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated by the EU.
The Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Japan, approved with 474 votes to 152 with 40 abstentions on Wednesday, will remove almost all custom duties adding up to €1 billion annually for EU companies. It represents a clear stance in support of rules-based, free and fair trade “at a time of serious protectionist challenges” .
Agriculture, SMEs win
While the most sensitive EU sectors such as rice production are safeguarded, wine, cheese, beef, pork, pasta, chocolate and biscuits will enter duty-free either immediately or after a transition period, 205 products with European geographical indications will be protected, to help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) which make up 78 percent of exporters to Japan. Parliament urges the Commission to set up contact points for them, so that they can quickly benefit from the agreement.
Japan opens up its rail procurement market and public procurement in its main cities to European competition. E-commerce, international maritime transport and postal services will also be liberalised.
The Parliament welcomed the high level of environmental and labour protection, the commitment to the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, and encourages both parties to combat illegal logging. MEPs nevertheless stressed that Japan must ratify all relevant labour codes set by the International Labour Organisation.
Parliament also approved today the Strategic Partnership Agreement with 535 votes for, 84 against and 45 abstentions, which extends cooperation to areas such as energy, education, research and development, development, and the fight against climate change and terrorism.