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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Opening remarks by Vice-President Katainen and Commissioner Malmström on the outcome of negotiations for the Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan and the trade and investment agreements with Singapore

Strasbourg, 18 April 2018

Vice-President Katainen

Thank you very much, good morning welcome to this press conference. It's a good morning, because this is also an important day from a trade policy perspective. As you know one of this Commission's priorities have been to strengthen the rule-based world order and in this thinking, rule based trade can play a role.

This morning the Commission signed off on the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement and the EU-Singapore trade and investment agreements to the Council. These are the second and third major bilateral deals we have struck with Asian countries, after South Korea in 2011.

This means that the Commission's work is now done and the ratification process can begin. We are proposing to the Council and then the European Parliament to approve these deals, which must happen before they can be concluded and enter into force.

The agreement with Japan is the biggest bilateral deal ever negotiated by the European Union. Together, we will create a free trade zone covering 600 million people and one third of global GDP. We will eliminate the vast majority of the 1 billion euro of duties paid by EU firms every year, and simplify customs procedures across the board. The Partnership Agreement will open huge market opportunities for both sides.

In the agricultural sector alone, together with reduced tariffs, over 200 distinctive European food and drink products will be protected from imitation in Japan. This will provide a welcome boost to European producers, both big and small, looking to sell their high-quality produce to a market of 128 million consumers.

Beyond agriculture, this agreement will also strengthen economic cooperation between Japan and the EU and reinforce our competitiveness, including through regulatory alignment with international standards.

Significantly, the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement is also the EU's first trade deal to explicitly commit to the Paris Climate Agreement.

The deals on the table show our strong continued commitment to open, fair and rules-based trade at a time when others are questioning it. With Japan and Singapore we are making a strong statement that trade opening and the consolidation of a trading system building on WTO rules is win-win.

Finally, it has long been our aim to get the Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan and the trade and investment agreements with Singapore in place so that European businesses, consumers, farmers and workers can start reaping the benefits as soon as possible.

With today's announcement, we believe we are on track to do this before the end of this Commission's mandate.

 

Commissioner Malmström

Thank you Vice-President, indeed it is not only a beautiful sunny day but an important day for trade policy.

Trade policy is not only about euros and cents, even if those two agreements are very much about euros and cents in the way that they're opening up fantastic possibilities for our companies both when it comes to trade in services, procurement, elimination of tariffs, possibilities for our farmers and the opportunities that it creates, especially for our small and medium sized companies, we have negotiated both of these agreements with that particularly in mind. So that is important for growth, investments and jobs.

But it is also important because both Japan and Singapore are friends, are partners, are allies when it comes to shaping globalization and standing up for open, rule based trade in a global trading system.

We are partners in defending multilateralism and ensuring strong international organisations. So Japan and Singapore are part of this circle of like-minded friends that we are creating and that is particularly important in these times.

As Vice-President Katainen said the Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan is actually the biggest trade agreement ever done between two countries.

And Singapore is a smaller country but never the less very important. It is the gateway for the European Union for South East Asia. 10,000 EU companies are already established in Singapore so it a hub to the wider region and according to the latest figures bilateral trade in goods and services is already in almost 100 billion euros per year.

So we are setting a benchmark for trade agreements in this region and Singapore is the first one completed by a member of the ASEAN and this can provide a stepping stone for a bigger agreement at a later stage between the EU and the ASEAN.

We are confirming in these agreements our commitment to progressive rules on workers' rights and the environment. Both agreements include comprehensive chapters on trade and sustainable development, guaranteeing the highest standards as well as strengthening joint action in labour issues and the environment, climate change, while safeguarding all countries' right to regulate.

As you might have seen, if you've had a chance to look at it - everything will be online soon, I think - the eagle-eyed amongst you will see that we have presented two separate agreements on Singapore. There will be one on trade and investment and one on investment protection.

This is the response by the Commission to the statement by the Court of Justice providing welcomed clarity on the issue of responsibility between the EU and Member States when it comes to ratifying trade agreements. It does of course not prejudge the Council decision that still needs to be taken on this issue, but it formalises what the Commission believes is the best way forward after discussing this with the institutions.

So we now hope for a quick handling in the Council on both these agreements so they can be signed as soon as possible and then sent to this institution, the European Parliament, to vote for it as well.

They are very important agreements in crucial moments and they send a strong signal to the world that the EU is committed to open rule based trade, we are willing to take that leadership and we are engaging with friends and partners. Today we talk about Japan and Singapore but you know there's also other agreements that we are negotiating right now and this is important in these times to stand up for these principles.

Thank you.

SPEECH/18/3425

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