Japan and prospects for closer EU ties

05-10-2017

Since the end of the Second World War, the cornerstone of Japan's defence strategy and foreign policy has been its alliance with the United States of America (USA). However, Tokyo has increasingly paid attention to the European integration process. The European Union and Japan share similar values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, while also promoting a market economy, free trade and peace. Within the Japanese media, the EU is recognised as a significant civilian power in the normative and diplomatic domains, promoting the values it shares with Japan. While for decades, the emphasis in relations was on trade issues and industrial cooperation, EU-Japan ties strengthened in the 1990s and the two countries have become strategic partners since 2003 ─ their cooperation based on the 2001 action plan. Nevertheless, there have been very few significant joint measures or initiatives. The conclusion of a strategic partnership agreement (SPA) will bring an upgrade in EU-Japan relations, moving from sectoral agreements to a comprehensive, binding and forward-looking framework. Both partners are reliant on each other; they could benefit from closer cooperation on military and security matters, as well as on shared challenges, such as slow economic growth, public debt management, the use of financial tools such as quantitative easing, an aging population and the development of the 'silver' economy.

Since the end of the Second World War, the cornerstone of Japan's defence strategy and foreign policy has been its alliance with the United States of America (USA). However, Tokyo has increasingly paid attention to the European integration process. The European Union and Japan share similar values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, while also promoting a market economy, free trade and peace. Within the Japanese media, the EU is recognised as a significant civilian power in the normative and diplomatic domains, promoting the values it shares with Japan. While for decades, the emphasis in relations was on trade issues and industrial cooperation, EU-Japan ties strengthened in the 1990s and the two countries have become strategic partners since 2003 ─ their cooperation based on the 2001 action plan. Nevertheless, there have been very few significant joint measures or initiatives. The conclusion of a strategic partnership agreement (SPA) will bring an upgrade in EU-Japan relations, moving from sectoral agreements to a comprehensive, binding and forward-looking framework. Both partners are reliant on each other; they could benefit from closer cooperation on military and security matters, as well as on shared challenges, such as slow economic growth, public debt management, the use of financial tools such as quantitative easing, an aging population and the development of the 'silver' economy.