Last Monday I had the chance to attend the 15th Japan-EU Conference in Brussels. The theme was: “Japan-EU Cooperation in a Changing World: Approaches to Rules and Standards”. Several distinguished speakers of different institutions enlightened their view on the relationship between Japan and the European Union. The Japanese party, with professors of various prestigious universities, as well as the European party, who brought along President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, was well represented. The speeches covered the ‘hot’ topics of today: current (legal) issues and how to deal with them, the expected Free Trade Agreement and human security cooperation with a focus on anti-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Especially the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) caught my attention. As all speakers declared, negotiations will start as soon as possible. This agreement would create mutual opportunities and enhance world trade. In the case of Europe, export will be boosted, resulting in an increase of employment. Up till now, foreign firms experienced difficulties entering Japan’s closed market system. With the FTA, the NTB’s (Non-tariff barriers to trade, for example the maintenance of quotas on import) will be unlocked to allow more competitiveness, especially with the eye on the United States. Establishing a triangle of economical agreements between these three main economies, a world trading system will be created.
But in how far is this profitable for Japan? While the EU could give impressive figures on future growth of employment and of BNP, the Japanese were rather reluctant in providing concrete information. Did they withhold the negative aspects? The fact is, Japan’s profit will by far exceed the European’s. Admitting this now could result in more hesitation of the European side during the negotiations. Regarding such a hopeful prospect, time has come to launch these negotiations. Nevertheless, we will have to wait at least two years before things will be settled.