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EU-Japan Harmony

30 April 2019

The EU-Japan summit on 25 April was full of harmony with both sides emphasising how much they had in common: preserving the rules-based multilateral system, fighting protectionism, promoting democracy and human rights, protecting the environment, supporting the Iran nuclear deal and the complete nuclear disarmament of North Korea.

Prime Minister Abe was visiting a number of countries to prepare for the G20 summit in Osaka in June. Immediately after Brussels he flew to Washington for a meeting with Trump. The US was the elephant in the room at the summit as both the EU and Japan were suffering from tariffs imposed by Trump and both faced the prospect of further tariffs on cars.

Abe, Tusk and Juncker expressed satisfaction with their free trade deal (Economic Partnership Agreement) that many believe was concluded in response to Trump’s ‘America First’ approach. There was general agreement on the need to be cautious in dealing with China and the BRI; and both sides urged North Korea to fulfil UN resolutions on nuclear weapons. There was also agreement on preserving the Iran nuclear deal.

Abe pushed for EU support for his G20 priorities including data governance and in particular on e-commerce. Among the initiatives which Japan wants to launch at Osaka is ‘Data Free Flow with Trust’, a process to extend freedom of cross-border data flows. Both sides also agreed on the need to place cyber security within a UN context.

He agreed with EU leaders on a global initiative to tackle marine plastic waste. And he made a pitch for women's empowerment and participation in the labour market. But this aim seemed at odds with the all-male Japanese delegation.

There were, however, some differences. Abe pressed the EU to end its restrictions on the import of some Japanese food products that were imposed after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. And there are differences on how far to reform the WTO.

On Brexit, Abe stressed that many Japanese companies had invested in the UK and would be seriously affected by a no deal. 

The joint statement can be accessed here