BRUSSELS: The European Parliament on Wednesday approved an accord with Japan that has been dubbed the world’s biggest trade deal, covering economies that represent a third of global GDP.
The agreement will go into effect in February, and has been celebrated as a victory for Europe as a free trade champion in the face of U.S. President Donald Trump’s protectionism and the U.K.’s decision to leave the EU, report agencies.“Our economic partnership with Japan — the biggest trade zone ever negotiated — is now very close to becoming a reality,” said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.
Talking to AFP before lawmakers voted by 474 votes to 152 to back the deal, Malmstrom called it “a symbol, a signal” and added: “We’re showing that for our part, we’re in favor of open but regulated trade.”
The deal was confirmed even as U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May defended her faltering attempt to negotiate her nation’s orderly departure from the European Union before a boisterous House of Commons.
But, ironically, some EU leaders see the wide-ranging deal they have agreed with far-off Japan as a possible model for future commercial relations with the United Kingdom, once it formally quits the bloc.
“Everything is uncertain with the United Kingdom for the moment, but one day or another we’ll have to negotiate something,” Malmstrom said, predicting that a U.K. deal would “go even further” than Japan’s.
Covering more than 630 million people and economies that add up to around a third of global output, the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement has been under discussion since 2013.When it goes into effect it will regulate almost all commerce between the Asian giant and the 27 remaining EU economies and, according to Malmstrom, will benefit in particular European farmers.