EU and Japan 'almost there' on new trade deal
EU negotiators say they have made "sufficient" progress to be able to ink a trade deal with Japan this week.
The development came after EU agriculture chief Phil Hogan and trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström were dispatched to Tokyo at the last minute to try to settle differences over Japanese duties on EU cheese and European tariffs on vehicle imports from Japan.
The EU and Japan - the world's fourth-largest economy - want to initial the deal at a summit of the world's leading 20 economies in Hamburg this Thursday.
Ms Malmström said the deal was "almost there" and that officials would "iron out the remaining details" ahead of the leaders' meeting. The EU hopes to triple its agricultural exports under the deal, as well as boost exports of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, which are also important for Ireland.
Since the US pulled out of the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership, EU officials feel a deal with Japan has gained momentum. But the EU has had a difficult time getting trade deals through national parliaments, with the EU-Canada deal almost scuppered by Belgium's French-speaking regional parliament over fears it would lower EU health and safety standards and give corporations too much power. The deal has yet to be approved by all EU countries.
The EU is also negotiating a deal with the South American Mercosur bloc, which it hopes to finalise this year, with a new round of talks starting this week.
Mr Hogan last year took beef quotas off the table, but another exchange of offers is expected in the autumn.
"There seems to be a new-found interest by the Mercosur countries to moderate their ambition on agriculture in the context of any new deal that can be struck, and I welcome that very much," Mr Hogan told the Farming Independent.