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European Commission

Karel De Gucht

European Commissioner for Trade

Press Conference: Remarks on the launch of negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Japan

EU-Japan Ministerial meeting/ Tokyo, Japan

25 March 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming this evening.

I would first like to thank my Japanese hosts for their welcome and especially Minister Toshimitsu Motegi who I met earlier today.

Let me also once again express, on behalf of President Van Rompuy and President José Manuel Barroso, the European Union's regret at having to postpone the 21st EU-Japan Summit because of the need for them to remain in Brussels to focus on the on-going efforts to find a solution for the financial situation of Cyprus. We very much appreciate the Japanese government's understanding in this respect and we look forward to rescheduling the summit as soon as possible.

As you are no doubt aware, earlier today Prime Minister Abe spoke by telephone to President Van Rompuy and President Barroso to officially launch the negotiations for two landmark agreements for EU-Japan relations: a Strategic Partnership Agreement and a Free Trade Agreement.

I am delighted with today's launch of negotiations. This has allowed Minister Motegi and myself to discuss in-depth the preparations for the first round of the Free Trade Agreement negotiations due to take place in Brussels in mid-April.

As major economic powers accounting for one third of global output, highly interconnected, and faced with similar challenges, the EU and Japan have a shared responsibility to boost growth, jobs and competiveness. I know the Japanese government share this view with the European Union.

The EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement will be an important part of the response to those challenges. It will also be a key complement of the structural reforms that both Europe and Japan are undertaking to bring greater prosperity to both our peoples.

Trade is the best way to generate growth without putting additional pressure on taxpayers. This is why I have embarked on an ambitious trade agenda and why a deal with Japan is central to the success of this overall strategy.

It is now important that both sides stick to the commitments made in the scoping exercise – namely on the continuing dismantling of the non-tariff barriers so we can swiftly and successfully progress in our negotiations.

I am aware that the negotiations will certainly be challenging – but I am convinced that the potential benefits for both Japan and the EU are worth this effort. For example, for Europe – depending on the liberalisation scenario used - the FTA is expected to boost EU GDP by between 0.6% and 0.8%.

So today marks an historic juncture in our relationship; it also marks the day 'the real work' begins to strengthen our economic ties for the years to come. Thank you.

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