The EU should start talks on a free trade deal with Japan, said MEPs on Thursday, pointing to the huge gains for jobs and growth that deeper trade ties could bring. But talks should be suspended if Japan fails to remove barriers in key sectors, including EU car sales, they add.
"The vote on the Japan trade resolution can take us as a step forward towards free trade negotiations with one of the world's biggest trading blocks. These negotiations will not be easy and the Commission must be firm with its Japanese partners.That is why, as rapporteur, I have tabled amendments for a binding review clause within one year of the launch of negotiations to allow for a thorough review of progress. The key to success will be to ensure that Japan acts on its commitments to eliminate non-tariff barriers, particularly in the car sector. The time to launch negotiations is now", said rapporteur Metin Kazak (ALDE, BG) before the vote.
The non-binding resolution, which reminds the negotiating parties that Parliament can block such trade deals, was passed by a show of hands.
The resolution stresses that non-tariff barriers (NTBs) create regulatory or traditional advantages for local business and are harder to eliminate than customs duties. In the past, they have prevented EU businesses from benefiting fully from trade opportunities with Japan. EU exports to Japan could be boosted by up to 71% if tariffs and non-tariff barriers were reduced to the greatest possible extent.
Concerns for cars, postal services, and public procurement
MEPs insist that the mandate for the talks should include "clear and measurable targets" for removing NTBs especially in the car sector such as "zoning regulations", restrictions on electric and hybrid vehicles and preferential treatment for Japan's ultra-light "kei cars". Restrictions on access to Japanese markets in electronics, postal services and railway public procurement must also be lifted, says Parliament.
The resolution also calls for a binding clause to schedule a review within a year of the start of talks, to assess whether Japan has delivered clear results. If it fails to do so, then the talks should be suspended, MEPs say.
In June, Parliament asked the Council to await its opinion before deciding whether to launch free trade talks with Japan, as proposed by Commission in July this year.
In 2011, Japan's trade surplus with the EU was €18.5 billion, 30% of which was in automotive products alone, out of a total EU-Japan goods trade worth €116.4 billion. In the same year, EU-US goods trade was worth €444.7 billion and EU-China goods trade €428.3 billion.
Procedure: Non-legislative resolution