The deal signed in Tokyo will remove almost all tariffs, create a market of 600 million people and contrast with US President Donald Trump's protectionist agenda.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe poses after signing a contract with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk at the Japanese Prime Minister's office in Tokyo, Japan, July 17, 2018.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe poses after signing a contract with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk at the Japanese Prime Minister's office in Tokyo, Japan, July 17, 2018. (Reuters)

Japan and the European Union signed a free-trade deal at a summit in Tokyo on Tuesday in what both see as a pushback against a feared US turn toward protectionism under President Donald Trump.

European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to sign the deal in the Japanese capital after an earlier meeting in Brussels had been postponed last week due to deadly floods in western Japan.

"The EU and Japan showed an undeterred determination to lead the world as flag-bearers for free trade," Abe said at a joint news conference with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The deal signed in Tokyo will remove almost all tariffs, create a market of 600 million people and contrast with the US president's protectionist agenda. 

TRT World's Laila Humairah reports.

Biggest deal ever by EU

Japan is also agreeing to adopt international car standards for the first time.

Japan and the EU launched their bilateral negotiations in 2013 but had been struggling to achieve breakthroughs in key areas, such as Japan scrapping tariffs on EU cheese and wine and Europe giving greater access for Japanese cars and car parts.

The deal, agreed last December, is "the biggest-ever negotiated by the European Union," according to Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas. 

"This agreement will create an open trade zone covering nearly a third of the world's GDP," he said. 

EU boosting alliances

The EU – the world’s biggest single market with 28 countries and 500 million people – is trying to boost alliances in the face of Trump's protectionist administration. 

Trump's administration has angered traditional allies like the EU and Japan by imposing trade tariffs, while rattling international markets by threatening a trade war with China. 

Under the trade agreement, the EU will open its market to Japan's auto industry, with Tokyo in return scrapping barriers to EU farming products, especially dairy. 

The EU is seeking access to one of the world's richest markets, while Japan hopes to jump-start an economy that has struggled to find solid growth. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies