Sunday

3rd Jul 2022

EU and Japan wave light in Trump's 'darkness'

  • 'We are sending a clear message that you can count on us, EU and Japan,' said Donald Tusk (r), after he and Jean-Claude Juncker met with Japan's Shinzo Abe

"We also have many other friends in the world," the EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini had said on Monday, after US president Donald Trump had designated the EU as a "foe".

The EU stressed that point on Tuesday (17 July) with the signing of a series of agreements with Japan, another puzzled US ally, one day after expressing common interest with China.

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The presidents of the European Commission and Council, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, signed with Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe the biggest EU trade deal ever, as well as an agreement on data transfer and a strategic partnership agreement covering cybercrime and energy security.

"Politically, it's a light in the increasing darkness of international politics," Tusk said.

"Today is a good day not only for all the Japanese and Europeans but for all reasonable people of this world who believe in mutual respect and cooperation," Tusk said.

'Clear message'

Pointedly referring to Trump without actually naming him, Tusk insisted that the EU-Japan trade deal was "an act of enormous strategic importance for the rules-based international order, at a time when some are questioning this order."

"We are sending a clear message that you can count on us, EU and Japan," he insisted. "We are predictable, responsible and will continue defending a world based on rules, on freedom, on transparency and common sense."

For the EU as well as for Japan, Trump's trade policy - and in particular tariffs on steel and aluminium and threats of tariffs on cars - are a sign of the weakening of the rules-based world order they want to maintain.

The conclusion of the trade agreement was sped up last year - putting aside the controversial issue of dispute settlements - as a reaction to Trump's election and first questioning of the international order.

"Trade is about more than tariffs and barriers. It is about values, principles and finding win-win solutions for all those concerned," Juncker insisted on Tuesday. Juncker himself will meet Trump in Washington on July 25, the commission announced on Tuesday.

Under the deal, Japan will remove duties on almost all EU agri-food products and recognise EU geographical indicators.

The EU and Japan will align their standards for cars, and a textiles-labelling system. Market access will be easier for services, and EU companies will have access to public procurements in 48 Japanese cities.

Demonstrate leadership

Both sides hope that the trade deal will increase exchanges between two economic powers that represents almost 30 percent of the global GDP, and set standards that the US would have to follow.

The same logic applies to the agreement that recognises the European and Japanese personal data protection systems as equivalent.

The EU and Japan want to "demonstrate their leadership, in shaping global standards based on a high level of protection of personal data", they said in a joint statement.

As with China on Monday, the EU also insisted with Japan on the "crucial role" of maintaining the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the basis of the multilateral trading system, with a commitment to reform it.

The political dimension of the EU-Japan alliance "is even more visible and significant today than two months ago," Tusk pointed out.

"I'm pretty sure you know what I mean," he added, referring to the contentious G7 summit in Canada in June and Trump's meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin on Monday.

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