EU signs free trade agreement with Japan

The EU has signed its most comprehensive free trade agreement to date - with Japan. The deal, which has been in preparation since 2013 and is known as the Jefta, is to come into effect next year and removes 99 percent of all the tariffs between the two economic areas. Has the EU learned nothing from the public outcry over Ceta, or is it right to seek new partners?

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Mediapart (FR) /

Ammunition for EU's critics

In view of the firm opposition to Ceta Mediapart takes a sceptical view of the free trade agreement with Japan:

“The Italian government confirmed on July 13 that it will refuse to sign the Ceta agreement. Austria's government has declared that it won't sign until the European Court of Justice has decided whether the arbitration courts are compatible with EU law. In this situation is it clever of the EU Commission to sign an agreement with Japan which in many points repeats the flaws of the agreement with Canada? Because it will be these very same EU leaders who will complain about the anti-EU mood and call on the public to fight populism.”

Kaleva (FI) /

Priorities change quickly

It's logical that the EU is now looking for new partners, writes Kaleva:

“In the past, trade relations with the US took priority for both the EU and Japan. But times have changed. Economic interests are a good advisor when it comes to reshuffling priorities. It's only natural for the EU to strengthen its partnerships with countries that believe in free trade. ... It makes sense for EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to have the free trade agreement with Japan signed and sealed when he starts renegotiating the EU's ailing trade relations with the US next week.”

Lost in EUrope (DE) /

The hype is exaggerated

Free trade, growth and prosperity are not necessarily correlated, Brussels correspondent Eric Bonse writes on his blog Lost in Europe:

“With the new free trade agreement the EU wants to secure the leading role in global trade for itself. ... But there's a catch. No one can say whether Jefta will bring Europe economic advantages - or whether the disadvantages will prevail. ... According to a study put out in 2017, liberalisation could lead to a decline in prosperity in Japan, but also in Britain, Greece or Bulgaria. Even in an optimistic scenario in which Japan and Germany are among the biggest winners, the average increase in growth would amount to a negligible 0.06 percent of GDP. Clearly all the hype over free trade is somewhat exaggerated.”

Der Standard (AT) /

No reason to panic

A level-headed approach is called for in the discussion over the EU's various free trade agreements, Der Standard emphasises:

“The many stories about the potential consequences - watch out for chlorine-washed chickens! have aroused the public's interest in trade policy issues and triggered a heated debate. ... This is a positive development. For too long trade agreements were signed behind closed doors and the final version barely discussed. This has changed profoundly. The downside is that both sides are using exaggeration. Proponents and detractors alike are dramatising the potential consequences, and this is not doing the debate any good.”