The EU and Japan announced Friday that they have concluded negotiations for a giant free trade agreement while "fighting the temptation of protectionism", in an apparent message to US President Donald Trump .
The trade agreement, which the European Union has described as more important than ever, still needs to be signed and ratified by both sides who agreed in July.
Once completed, it will forge an economic zone of 600 million people with 30% of global GDP.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hailed the imminent birth of what he termed as "gigantic economic zone" when he confirmed the conclusion of negotiations on the economic partnership agreement.
"Japan and the EU will join forces and build an economic zone based on free and fair rules," Abe told reporters in Tokyo.
Mr Abe and the head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, previously stated that the agreement, which had been in place for four years, was of "strategic importance" beyond its economic value . "This sends a clear signal to the world that the EU and Japan are committed to maintaining the global economy on the basis of free, open and fair markets, with clear and transparent rules respecting and valuing our values, fighting the temptation of protectionism, "said the pair in a statement issued in Brussels.
With the agreement, the EU seeks to access one of the richest markets in the world, while Japan hopes to revive an economy that has struggled to find solid growth for longer of a decade. Japan also hopes to seize an opportunity after the failure of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, torpedoed by Trump in January.
As part of this agreement, the EU will open its market to the leading Japanese automotive industry, Tokyo in turn rejecting barriers to EU agricultural products, particularly products. dairy. EU officials insist that the agreement will be a major asset for European farmers who will have access to a huge market that appreciates European products.
Welcoming the opening of the markets, the European Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmstroem, said at a press conference "that it is in fact the largest trade agreement never negotiated by the European Union ".
The BusinessEurope lobby called the agreement "very good news" for businesses and citizens on both sides and predicted that it would lead to "global standards" in new areas of business.
"The agreement should remove longstanding customs and non-tariff barriers," BusinessEurope CEO Markus Beyrer said in a statement.
"This should generate new business opportunities and closer economic ties between two like-minded economies and is of great strategic importance."
Malmstroem said the negotiations for trade agreements with Mexico and the Mercosur states of South America were also at "advanced" stages.
The transactions are part of the great EU-Canada trade deal of last year, which ended even as the EU-US trade talks began. Have failed.
The finalization of the EU-Japan trade terms paves the way for the signature, ratification and full implementation of the agreement, which EU officials hope to see come true in January 2019.
But anti-trade activists who say that such agreements favor multinationals at the expense of democracy and the environment can influence events when the agreement is ratified by more than 30 regional and national parliaments .
Last year, the EU's trade deal with CETA nearly fell into such concerns when the small Belgian region of Wallonia threatened to veto, before to finally give in.
The controversial issue of investment courts, which has sparked opposition to trade agreements in EU countries, including Germany and France, remains unresolved for l & # 39; now.
Malmstroem told a press conference that the EU wanted his own courts to settle trade disputes, while Japan supported an older system.
"We can catch up later," she said.