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The Council today1 approved a mandate for the Commission to negotiate a free trade agreement with Japan. It also authorised the opening of negotiations with Japan on a framework agreement.
The agreements will be negotiated in parallel and will create a strengthened overall framework for the EU's relations with Japan.
Both mandates are composed of a decision of the Council and a decision of the representatives of the member states authorising the opening of negotiations, as well as directives for the negotiation of the agreements.
Japan is the EU's seventh-largest trading partner while the EU is Japan's third-largest trading partner, with 3.6 % and 11 % respectively of each other's trade in goods in 2011.
The Council's decision to launch the negotiations follows a "scoping" exercise that was conducted jointly by the Commission, the European External Action Service and the Japanese authorities, between May 2011 and May 2012, in order to define the potential scope and level of ambition of an agreement.
The negotiating directives foresee a free trade agreement that would provide for the progressive and reciprocal liberalisation of trade in goods, services and investment, as well as rules on trade-related issues and the elimination of non-tariff barriers.
The negotiating directives for a framework agreement cover political, global and sectoral cooperation in a comprehensive manner.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council (Trade).