Prime Minister, Dear Shinzō,
It is the pleasure of Donald and myself to have you come here to Europe in what promises to be a historic year in relations between Japan and the European Union.
We are already like-minded partners, long-standing allies and close friends, both institutionally and personally. We work together closely on fighting climate change, sustainable development, global migration and security. We saw Japan's leadership in those areas during your remarkable Presidency of the G7.
Our partnership works so well thanks to our common belief that the big issues of the day can only be tackled together, at international level.
I reiterated that commitment to Prime Minister Abe, notably following North Korea's violation of UN Security Council Resolutions. Its pursuit of Weapons of Mass Destruction is a major concern for the European Union and Japan. We will continue to fully implement the latest UN resolutions and consider any further restrictive measures needed to keep up the pressure.
That is further proof of how committed both the European Union and Japan are to working within a rules-based global system. And we both know that openness will continue to drive our economies and societies forward.
[Free Trade Agreement]
That is why I am so heartened by the progress we are making on a trade agreement and Strategic Partnership Agreement with our Japanese friends.
When it comes to trade, the agreement will of course provide a significant boost for both sides: Japan is already the European Union's second biggest trading partner in Asia and together our economies account for more than a third of the world's GDP.
We believe this agreement is necessary, it is necessary because we believe in free, fair and rules-based trade. And so we will continue to look out towards the world, rather than return to isolationism. The European Union is open for business – for fair business.
Our negotiations with Japan are now in a decisive – and hopefully final – stage. Prime Minister Abe's visit will allow us to reiterate our political commitment to a highly comprehensive, ambitious and balanced deal, so that our capable negotiators make the necessary progress in the outstanding areas.
This agreement will give Japan and the European Union the best of both worlds: it opens up a major new market to each other while creating a level playing field and protecting our industries and workforces from unfair trading practices.
As often in a negotiation, the few remaining issues are the most difficult to solve. Following our discussions today, I am very confident this will pave the way for a swift agreement this year.
We will take our time to ensure any deal works for both sides and fits with our values and principles.
As we approach the final stages of the negotiating process, on the European Union side we will continue to ensure a high level of transparency and engage directly with stakeholders and civil society on issues related to the negotiations.
I look forward – together with Donald – to continuing this close partnership with Prime Minister Abe at the upcoming G7 meeting in Taormina, and hopefully at the next EU-Japan Summit where we can successfully conclude our negotiations. This was not and will not be the last meeting of this year.