LONDON — Don’t write off big free trade deals yet. Japan and Europe are preparing to sign one on Thursday.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet top European Union officials in Brussels on the eve of a G20 summit of world leaders, including President Trump, in Germany.
The EU said it was expecting to sign a political agreement on the trade deal at the meeting.
“EU-Japan Summit on Thursday. Ambitious free and fair trade deal in the making,” EU Council President Donald Tusk tweeted on Tuesday.
Some details will need further work. But the deal, which has been discussed since 2011, should remove almost all customs duties on European exports to Japan. Those are currently worth as much as €1 billion ($1.1 billion) a year.
The deal is also hugely symbolic — coming just as President Trump prepares to get tougher on America’s top trading partners.
“It is extremely important for Japan and the EU to wave the flag of free trade in response to global moves toward protectionism by quickly concluding a framework agreement on the Japan-EU [economic partnership agreement],” Abe said on Tuesday.
The EU signed another big trade deal, with Canada, last year.
The EU and Japan, which together account for more than a quarter of the global economy, traded roughly $140 billion of goods last year, according to EU data. The deal they are negotiating now should boost that number.
Japan wants the EU to remove high tariffs on exports such as cars and electronics, and is also seeking lower regulatory hurdles for Japanese companies doing business in Europe. The EU is pushing for improved market access for agricultural products and lower tariffs on food products such as cheese, pasta, pork and wine.
The EU said more than 600,000 jobs in the EU are tied to exports to Japan. Some 550,000 people in the European Union currently work for Japanese companies.
— Alec Macfarlane and Yoko Wakatsuki contributed reporting.
By Ivana Kottasová