After 18 intense and constructive negotiating rounds and several meetings at technical and political levels, the EU and Japan have reached a political agreement in principle on an Economic Partnership Agreement. Seeking to boost trade in goods and services as well as create opportunities for investment, the negotiations were first launched in 2013.

Once the agreement is fully implemented, Japan will have scrapped customs duties on 97% of goods imported from the EU (in tariff lines), with the remaining tariff lines being subject to partial liberalisation through tariff rate quotas or tariff reductions. This, in turn, will save EU exporters around €1 billion in customs duties per year.

Tariffs on industrial products are to be fully abolished in sectors where the EU is very competitive, such as chemicals, plastics, cosmetics as well as textiles and clothing. For leather and shoes, the statement says that the existing quota system that has been significantly hampering EU exports will be abolished at the agreement’s entry into force. Tariffs on shoes will be cut from 30% to 21% at entry, with the rest of the duties being eliminated over 10 years. Tariffs on EU exports of leather products, such as handbags, will be eliminated over 10 years, as will be those on products that are traditionally highly protected by Japan, such as sports shoes and ski boots.

In terms of sustainable development, the EU and Japan agree to promote Corporate Social Responsibility and other trade and investment practices supporting sustainable development. Both parties commit themselves to implementing the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and international environmental agreements, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, as well as the Paris climate agreement.