MEPs oppose rushed start to trade talks with Tokyo
By Lénaïc Vaudin d’Imécourt | Wednesday 13 June 2012
The European Parliament has asked the Council not to authorise the opening of trade negotiations with Japan until MEPs state their own position on the proposed negotiating mandate based on a report by a parliamentary committee. The resolution was adopted by a large majority, on 13 June in Strasbourg.
“As long as Japan keeps its market closed and makes life difficult for European businesses, the planned free trade agreement with the EU must be put on hold,” Daniel Caspary (EPP, Germany) and Jaroslaw Leszek Walesa (EPP, Poland) said in a joint statement ahead of the vote, as they urged the Japanese authorities to show their commitment to removing a number of barriers to trade.
European businesses have been complaining about Tokyo imposing a set of non-tariff barriers to trade, which include access to its public procurement market, a zoning regime in the automotive sector and geographical indicators.
“While Japanese businesses can bid for public tenders in Europe, Japan has all but closed off its public tendering procedures to foreign companies,” Caspary and Walesa explained. “Europe needs a clear signal until autumn that Japan is willing to open up its market” before starting FTA negotiations, they said.
On 31 May, the European Commission announced that it had finally ended its ‘scoping exercise’ for a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement (DCFTA) with Japan, but the 27 trade ministers, who met the same day in Brussels, did not give the Commission a mandate to open formal negotiations. “We are not there yet,” Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht noted at the time. EU sources have said that a mandate for negotiations could be given to the Commission at the next European Council meeting, on 28-29 June, but Parliament’s vote might highly influence the decision by the 27 heads of state and government.