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EU states give go-ahead to free trade deal with Japan

Members of the European Union have expressed support for a free trade deal with Japan thus paving the way for an agreement to the same effect to be signed between the two parties at the Union’s next week summit in Brussels.

The 28-member bloc approved to go ahead with an economic partnership agreement with Japan (EPA) on Friday. In their deliberations on the agreement, EU member states removed all but a handful of tariffs applied between the Union and Japan in an attempt which experts say is meant to boost economic growth and help create jobs inside the Union.

EU member states also agreed to reinforce cooperation with Japan in a range of other areas including security, defense against cybercrime, energy and climate change mitigation.

The EPA will unite around 600 million people, representing about one-third of global trade.

Trade negotiations between the EU and Japan had been going on since March 2013 and were successfully concluded in April 2018.

The deal comes at a time when US President Donald Trump is spearheading an “America First” agenda, imposing hefty tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the EU and now mulling a similar move for the automotive sector.

Brussels warned Washington last week that imposing import tariffs on cars from the 28-member bloc could lead to “countermeasures” against nearly $300 billion worth of US exports.

EU warns US of ‘countermeasures’ against auto tariffs

The EU warns that nearly $300 billion worth of US exports will face “countermeasures” if Washington goes through with its threat to levy tariffs on European cars.

The commission said that “up to $294 billion of US exports … could be subject to countermeasures across sectors of the US economy,” which was equivalent to a staggering 19 percent of total US exports in 2017.

Trade disagreements between Washington and Brussels have intensified since March 8 when the US imposed a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports from the EU, Canada, Mexico and China.

Trump argued at the time that enormous flows of imports to the US were putting in jeopardy the American national security, and made an odd departure from a decades-long US-led move towards open and free trade.

The bloc recently hit back with retaliatory tariffs on iconic US goods worth $3.2 billion, including jeans and motorcycles.

Some EU countries like France and the Netherlands have sought a tough line against Washington while others like Germany have urged a different approach and one that could resist Trump’s “America First” policies.

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