ISSN 2330-717X

26th EU-Japan Summit: Taking Strong Partnership To Higher Level


The 26th EU-Japan Summit further strengthened bilateral ties, focusing on the implementation of two landmark agreements concluded last year: the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership and Economic Partnership Agreements. These agreements have taken political and economic relations to a higher level.

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the European Council Donald Tusk represented the European Union at the Summit. Japan was represented by its Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen, and the EU’s Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, also participated.

“This is a truly historic time for Japan, with its current presidency of the G20 and the accession of Crown Prince Naruhito as Emperor next week. Japan can rely on the European Union on both counts: to strengthen multilateralism, and to support its new era of Reiwa, which means “beautiful harmony” and perfectly sums up our partnership”, said President Jean-Claude Juncker. “Our new Economic Partnership Agreement is a landmark moment for global trade. The vast majority of the €1 billion of duties paid annually by EU companies exporting to Japan and vice-versa have been removed. This will help trade between us increase by up to nearly €36 billion. We now need to ensure that this success story continues by making sure we stay on track with the implementation.”

Presidents Juncker, Tusk and Prime Minister Abe committed to further develop the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership, which since last year is based on two landmark agreements. The Economic Partnership Agreement, which entered into force on 1 February 2019, bringing together economies that account for just under a third of the world’s Gross Domestic Product and are home to over 600 million people. The Strategic Partnership Agreement is a broader framework promoting political and sectoral cooperation and joint actions in more than 40 areas.

Joint commitment to tackling global and regional challenges

The European Union and Japan are like-minded partners, working together both bilaterally as well as in multilateral fora, such as the United Nations, the G7, and the G20. As the Strategic Partnership Agreement foresees, Leaders discussed ways to strengthen cooperation on global issues.

They confirmed their joint vision of and support to the rules-based international order with multilateralism, democracy, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, open markets and a global trading system with the World Trade Organisation at its core.

EU Leaders reaffirmed their support to the priorities of Japan’s current G20 Presidency, with a reform of the World Trade Organisation and an ambitious implementation of the Paris climate agreement as key deliverables for the EU for the G20 summit in Osaka.

Leaders addressed regional and foreign policy issues including the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the joint commitment to preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the Iran nuclear deal, the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia, and the global role of China.   

Advancing the broad bilateral agenda

The Leaders took stock of the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement, exchanging views on how to ensure that citizens and businesses can reap the full benefits of the agreement. In this context, it is essential that the EU and Japan fully implement the agreement, including the chapter on sustainable development.

The EU and Japan are advanced societies, operating at the forefront of technology in many areas. This implies the need for collaboration among like-minded countries on maintaining a safe, open and secure cyberspace. In January 2019, the European Commission and Japan adopted mutual adequacy decisions, creating the world’s largest area of safe data flows and allowing personal data to flow freely between the two economies on the basis of strong data protection guarantees.

Building on this success,the EU and Japan agreed to work together on international initiatives on data protection. President Juncker expressed his support for the “Data Free Flow with Trust” initiative, which will allow the free flow of data among countries with high levels of protection. He also supported the launching of the “Osaka Track”, which deals with e-commerce issues. The European Commission will play an active role in both initiatives.

The European Union and Japan share the view that connectivity should be environmentally, economically, fiscally and socially sustainable. There is significant potential to find synergies between the European Union’s approach to connectivity, outlined by the Commission and the High Representative in September 2018 and Japan’s Free and Open Indo Pacific Concept, with its focus on quality infrastructure.

At the Summit, the Leaders committed to a new EU-Japan Partnership on Sustainable Connectivity and Quality Infrastructure for cooperation on sustainable connectivity in third countries. With people-to-people contacts playing a key part in connecting the EU and Japan, Leaders discussed ways to enhance these human links, including through joint programmes between European and Japanese universities, and the mobility of students and academics under the Erasmus+ programme. For the first time, 2019 will see the offer of EU-Japan Joint Masters Degrees under the Erasmus Mundus programme.

Presidents Juncker, Tusk and Prime Minister Abe also discussed other bilateral issues, including possibilities to strengthen the EU-Japan security partnership. In this regard, the EU and Japan expressed their readiness to explore options for joint work on maritime security, cyber-security, counter-terrorism and crisis management operations.

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