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Procedure : 2012/2711(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B7-0462/2012

Texts tabled :

B7-0462/2012

Debates :

PV 23/10/2012 - 18
CRE 23/10/2012 - 18

Votes :

PV 25/10/2012 - 14.10
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2012)0398

Debates
Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

18. EU trade negotiations with Japan (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. − The next item is the debate on the Commission’s statement on trade negotiations between the EU and Japan.

 
  
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  Karel De Gucht, Member of the Commission. Mr President, thank you for the opportunity to speak on our trade relations with Japan and the future EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement.

I note with interest the adoption of the motion for a resolution on EU trade negotiations with Japan by the Committee on International Trade two weeks ago. I hope that the European Parliament, in its vote expected later this week in the plenary, will clearly support the launching of EU-Japan FTA negotiations.

Japan is one of our main economic partners, and thus a decision to launch new FTA negotiations has to be based on solid ground. On 18 July of this year the Commission, after thoughtful consideration, decided to approve the draft recommendation to open negotiations with Japan and transmitted this to the Council. The ground for this decision has been prepared well.

We have an agreement with Japan on what both sides expect from the negotiations. The so-called ‘scoping paper’ lays out the scope of our potential discussions. It is the most ambitious paper of this kind that we have ever agreed with any trading partner. This gives us comfort that all our priorities will be addressed.

We have also negotiated – again upfront – a dedicated package that addresses key regulatory barriers, including for the car sector and railway procurement, which constitute the single most important hurdle for EU economic activities in Japan. Japan has also accepted that the phasing-out of tariffs can only take place strictly in parallel with the elimination of regulatory barriers. This means that the dismantling of EU tariffs will only take place once concrete results on the removal by Japan of regulatory barriers have been achieved.

To ensure that Japan continues to make progress in eliminating regulatory barriers, I have suggested to the Council the introduction of a ‘rendezvous clause’ in the negotiating directives. The clause would allow the EU to take stock of the progress achieved within one year of the start of the negotiations and bring them to a halt in the event of our failing to achieve meaningful progress.

I am pleased to note that many EU industry sectors have recently expressed their support for the launch of FTA negotiations with Japan. These include IT, consumer electronics, agri-foods and beverages, wholesale and retail distribution, chemicals, and services – all of them key for the expansion of EU economic interests abroad.

Let us not forget that Japan remains a huge economy, with consumer spending power that is still roughly twice as large as China’s. It is therefore crucial to unlock the potential opportunities for EU companies to sell their products and services to a country that so far has remained fairly protected by non-tariff barriers.

The FTA objective will be to eliminate these trade barriers and create a level playing field for our companies to enter and sell in that market. According to the impact assessment report of the future EU-Japan FTA, potential GDP growth close to 1 % is expected if we conclude this agreement. This is a significant gain, which cannot be ignored – especially at this time of economic difficulties. I hope we can count on your support in this endeavour.

 
  
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  Jarosław Leszek Wałęsa, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (PL) Mr President, the development of cooperation between the European Union and third countries is of great importance for economic growth and employment, particularly at a time of crisis. However, the negotiating mandate should be economically balanced and politically strong. At the negotiating table, we should ask for clear results in respect of key demands, which is why the bar should remain high.

Non-tariff barriers are still the main obstacle in bilateral relations with Japan. For that reason, our demands should be clearly formulated and have been met within one year of the launch of the negotiations. It is important to ensure that the negotiations are suspended if a significant number of barriers are not eliminated within the first 12 months. The presence of safeguards for both economies, in particular for sensitive sectors such as the automotive and electronics industries, should be guaranteed. The chief condition for the conclusion of the agreement should be the genuine and complete removal of the aforementioned barriers, improved market access in public procurement for European Union businesses and a comprehensive chapter on investment that covers investment protection and market access.

I believe that the agreement should be comprehensive, ambitious and fully binding. The free trade agreement should lead to genuine legal openness for European Union businesses. The conclusion of a free trade agreement between the European Union and Japan is a worthwhile endeavour, as the strengthening of cooperation and ties between the two parties have the potential to bring positive results.

 
  
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  Vital Moreira, on behalf of the S&D Group.(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I must firstly welcome Mr De Gucht who has, at this quite opportune moment, come to inform Parliament about the situation with the pre-negotiations, if we can call them that, between the Union and Japan. It is an opportune moment because this week Parliament will vote on, and in my opinion adopt, the report by Metin Kasak, who is rapporteur on the relations with Japan on this same issue.

The Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament supports the launch of negotiations and will therefore vote in favour of the motion for a resolution, which fundamentally coincides with the ideas set out for us today by Mr De Gucht. We believe that the potential of the economic and trade relations between the European Union and Japan is clearly underutilised and that the difficulty, in the case of Japan, is that the greatest potential for growth lies in removing the numerous non-tariff barriers to trade and investment that currently exist in that country. We therefore support an agreement with Japan, because that is the only way of effectively removing those barriers, or at least most of them, and allowing access to investment in that country, including in public procurement, which is an area in which these barriers are currently a real obstacle.

In my opinion, the scoping exercise which was conducted by the Commission and the Japanese Government resulted in satisfactory guarantees, with the conditions being met to begin negotiations with a good prospect of success. We need to be demanding on the objectives, and Parliament will therefore vote this week, through the motion for a resolution that I mentioned, on its recommendations with regard to the negotiating mandate that the Commission has requested from the Council. This will give the negotiator, that is the Commission, clear and more stringent guidance on what will make the agreement acceptable to Parliament, without whose assent no international trade treaty can be concluded. We now hope – and I am finishing. Mr President – that the Council will take due account of our recommendations and that the Commission will follow them to the letter.

 
  
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  Metin Kazak, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, as the severe economic crisis frustrates the EU’s common vision, the vote on the Japan trade resolution can take us a step forward towards free trade negotiations with one of the biggest trading blocs in the world and benefit European citizens by maximising the jobs and growth potential under the EU 2020 strategy.

We cannot accept that our two-way trade with the world’s third-largest national economy amounts to only a quarter of our trade with the US or China. The potential gains are clear. The Commission has estimated that nearly two thirds of such gains under the EU’s trade policy would come from potential agreements with the US and Japan. However, we realise that the negotiations will not be easy and that 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 assessment of the implementation of the 31 roadmaps agreed under the scoping exercise.

Our chief incentive during negotiations has to be the implementation of the commitments made by Japan to eliminate non-tariff barriers in various sectors, particularly the automotive sector. To ensure this I included a provision that if Japan has not delivered on its NTB commitments and has not demonstrated sufficient ambition in meeting the EU’s priority demands, the Commission should stop negotiations, after consultations with the European Parliament and the Council.

With this in mind, as rapporteur and representative of the ALDE Group, I urge the Member States to cast their cautiousness aside. Now is not the time to say ‘let’s wait a few more months’ or ‘we need more concessions’: now is the time to launch negotiations with Japan. Dear colleagues, the ground has been prepared. Let us translate our ambition into action.

 
  
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  Reinhard Bütikofer, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, we welcome the effort to start negotiations with Japan on improving our economic partnership. But to me the Kazak report seems to be an almost indecisive report. It gives me the impression of someone who wants to put his foot on the gas pedal and the brake at the same time. We should make up our mind as to whether we want to go forward or sit back for fear of getting into trouble with some industrial players and some industrial sectors that play the protectionist card.

We should strive, not only for mercantilist reasons but also for geostrategic reasons, to make this effort with the Japanese a success. That success should reach beyond merely trade-oriented aspects; it should, if possible, include issues like sustainability.

I do not believe that every single regulatory measure that does not please everybody is, for that reason, a trade or a regulatory barrier. If we were to go by the yardstick of some industrial lobbyists, a night flight ban for Tokyo airport would be considered a regulatory barrier. The Commission was smarter than that and did not include that in its list, but it shows to what extremes some people want to carry the case. We regret that the key car category was considered to be a barrier rather than an opportunity.

One last point: we should go ahead with this Treaty and do so with more transparency than we have done similar things in the past, and clearly with more transparency that the TPP has been pursued with so far.

 
  
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  Syed Kamall, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, Commissioner, the European Conservatives and Reformist Group have always been one of the most pro-trade groups in this Parliament, if not the most pro-trade, and we have wanted as many trade agreements as possible.

In the absence of the WTO or any progress in the WTO and of my second choice, which would be comprehensive plurilateral agreements, we have to fall upon bilateral agreements, given that it is vital that we negotiate bilateral agreements with the largest economies of the world. Japan clearly falls into that category.

One of the things that we should remember in trade – and I say this as a former lecturer in international trade, to apologise for my former academic background – is that there is a myth in trade. Countries do not trade with each other; it is people and businesses that trade with people and businesses in other countries for mutual benefit. All that governments can do is either facilitate by getting out of the way or get in the way with tariff barriers or non-tariff barriers – and all too often we see governments get in the way with these barriers. So surely it is time during this agreement – during the negotiations on this agreement – to reduce as many barriers as possible. However, unfortunately – as other speakers have said – politicians can sometimes be persuaded by entrenched interests, and we are all politicians and are all susceptible to those entrenched interests. We have seen this happen over the course of the last 18 months in discussions about these agreements.

Some industry players have talked about certain barriers, but as one of the previous speakers said, one person’s health and safety standard is another person’s non-tariff barrier. So I think we have to be sensitive to what is a non-tariff barrier and what is not. We have to recognise that the EU-Japan agreement will be complex and that both sides will want to feel that their consumers and their domestic industries are gaining. So my colleagues here clearly wanted no agreement – or no start to that agreement – until we had overcome the whole list of non-tariff barriers. Now that is unrealistic to expect of any trading partner, and I am glad that the Commissioner has been a supporter – as have many of the other groups –of going forward with this agreement.

It is essential that we negotiate all these barriers and perceived barriers, but actually we know that, at the end of the day, we have the ability to stop this deal if we do not feel that enough has been done. Therefore I am pleased, and I hope that we will continue the momentum to launch these negotiations. If it helps – and I think it does help soothe some of those industry concerns – I support the binding review clause which allows the negotiating parties to step back after a year and to look at the agreement and consider whether the other side has done enough. We, the European Parliament under the Lisbon Treaty, have the ability to say that actually, enough has to been done. But at a time when the EU continues to be crippled by an anaemic if not negative growth rate, when we are burdened with debt mountains and when Japan itself has had two lost decades of growth, surely what we should be looking for is an enhanced trading relationship with Japan which is underpinned by a free trade agreement in order to generate a 1 % boost in the Union’s overall GDP and up to 400 000 jobs.

Japan has other interests and other options it can pursue, and we have to be careful that we are not played off against other parties negotiating trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership being negotiated between the United States, Japan and a number of other countries. But overall, I think that the EU has a unique opportunity to lay a foundation stone that could bring untold benefits to all of Europe. It is my sincere hope that the European Parliament will show that it can be a responsible and trustworthy partner in an institutional legislative process and will give its seal of approval for the start of immediate negotiations with Japan.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  William (The Earl of) Dartmouth (EFD), Blue-card question. – How very gracious, Dr Kamall. You said in your speech – correctly, in my view – that countries do not trade with each other; it is people and businesses that trade with each other. However, the leader of your delegation, Mr Richard Ashworth, said on BBC Television that three million jobs in the UK depend on UK-EU trade. On the basis of what you yourself have just said, do you agree with Mr Ashworth?

 
  
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  Syed Kamall (ECR), Blue-card answer. – I am not sure how to address the honourable Member. Can I call you William, or the good Earl? I shall not call you the good Lord, for fear of upsetting all those in this House who are religious, but what I will say to you is that there is no inherent contradiction between those two facts.

It is quite clear, as I have said, that people and businesses trade with people and businesses in another country for mutual benefit, but actually trade agreements can facilitate that and lack of trade agreements can get in the way. But people still trade with people in other countries, even though there may be no trade agreement, so actually there is no inherent contradiction between those two statements. If you think there is I would be willing to have a conversation with you afterwards, maybe over a cup of coffee.

 
  
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  Helmut Scholz, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, an intelligent agreement between the EU and Japan would lead to stronger integration of the two economies. It goes without saying that 128 million potential customers in high-wage Japan offer very attractive prospects for European companies and their workforces in a range of sectors. Mutual integration of know-how in production chains could improve the global competitiveness of thousands of supplier companies. As you hear, I am using the subjunctive, because both your report this evening, Commissioner De Gucht, and important paragraphs in the EP resolution now before us make no offer of partnership; rather, they make unilateral demands to Japan. In my view, that is not a good starting point for long-term cooperation that brings mutual benefits. What we are discussing this evening is the mandate for the negotiations.

I am in favour of a clear, frank and open-ended discussion of the differences between the EU and Japan around the negotiating table. A real partnership cannot be based on either side dictating terms. That is why, as a Group, we have problems with the text of the resolution. Let us have a look at it. There are large chunks of the text that appear to have been written by the car industry. At a time when we are facing a climate crisis, how can we seriously demand a commitment from the Japanese Government to abolish the special treatment for electric and hybrid vehicles and the concessions for micro vehicles such as Kei-Cars, just so that we can export more diesel-powered vehicles?

The resolution’s over-emphasis on the abolition of non-tariff measures also conflicts with the findings of the Copenhagen study on trade between the EU and Japan. This study recognises that many of these measures help to improve general welfare, especially in the fields of health, the environment and consumer protection. We should therefore look at what the proposed arrangements are intended to achieve and seek an outcome which brings benefits to society but still promotes trade.

Furthermore, companies surveyed have mentioned other reasons why they are deterred from investing in Japan. Above all, there is the language barrier, cultural differences, which also affect consumer preferences, high taxes and wage costs. Anyone who is reluctant to pay qualified translators, or to develop successful marketing strategies to promote their goods in Japan, or to pay local wages and taxes should invest at home instead. These types of trade barrier cannot and should not be removed by an agreement. In this context, the Committee on International Trade gained some very interesting insights last year into the strategy pursued by IKEA, a very large company that has tailored its operations to suit Japanese consumption patterns, culture and social standards.

We need an agreement with non-tariff elements of cooperation. Joint programmes can bring together businesses and trade unions, consumer associations, academics, administrators and young people from Europe and Japan. Let us work towards a new culture of cooperation. That would also bring practical benefits for Europe’s SMEs in terms of energy efficiency and high-tech cooperation.

 
  
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  William (The Earl of) Dartmouth, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, in principle we strongly favour a trade treaty with Japan, but it has to be fair to both sides. At the moment Japan retains numerous non-tariff barriers. It is very hard for a foreign company to acquire a company in Japan, and there can be undue political influence. The effect is that, while Japan is always keen to export its own goods, it remains a complicated country in which to do business.

Nonetheless, the gross domestic product of Japan is larger than that of France, Belgium and Italy combined. A meaningful trade agreement would be good for everybody. However, as my colleague Mr Schulz has mentioned, there are signs that the French and German automobile manufacturers and their lobbyists are seeking to frustrate, or otherwise limit, an EU-Japan trade agreement. That would be wrong.

This brings me to an important related point. Because there are so many different trade interests in the 27 Member States, all of which have to be satisfied in some measure, it actually makes it significantly more difficult for the EU as an entity to conclude trade agreements than it would be for a single nation state on its own. Not easier, as is wrongly - and often - asserted. That is why, for example, Switzerland, with a gross domestic product less than one sixth of that of the UK alone, has had its trade agreement in place with Japan since December 2009, while this evening we are just talking about one.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Syed Kamall (ECR), Blue-card question. – I apologise, dear colleagues, for your not being able to hear my very quiet voice.

I wonder whether I could ask you this question. You rightly said that Japan can be a very complex country, and it can be difficult to access markets in Japan and also to take over companies. But could not the same be said of some countries in the EU? Could it not equally be said that it can be difficult to access some EU countries and take over companies in different EU Member States? Therefore, are you not just another EU protectionist? I wonder how you stand with regard to that accusation.

 
  
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  William (The Earl of) Dartmouth (EFD), Blue-card answer. – Let me first of all assure Mr Kamall that his tones, although soft, are both mellifluous and even sometimes musical. To address the very important and interesting point that he made in the next 20 seconds: yes, many EU countries are protectionist. We are concerned in our country that it is not the level playing field that it ought to be, and that is one of the strongest arguments why we in our political party believe that Britain should leave the EU, and that the EU in its present form is unreformed and unreformable.

 
  
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  Daniel Caspary (PPE). (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the majority of us in this House are firmly convinced that we need to launch this strategic partnership with Japan as a matter of urgency and that it needs to be intensified. There are economic reasons for this, and it is only fair and logical that after concluding a free trade agreement with Korea, we should do the same with other countries in the region in order to avoid the distortions of trade which would result from an agreement with Korea alone. I hope that we can achieve a genuine free trade agreement. Let me be frank, however: I have serious concerns as a result of the way the preparations have proceeded over recent months. For example, I clearly remember how pleased we were, at the end of last year, when Japan made concessions on railways, but we are still facing major difficulties in implementing these commitments. That is my concern: are the Japanese genuinely willing and able to open their markets? Or are they more interested in improving access to our markets for Japanese car companies while doing nothing in return at home?

For that reason, I would ask for the first year until the review to be used to test whether there is genuine interest on both sides in reciprocal market liberalisation and in the benefits that this partnership affords.

Secondly, I have major concerns about the issue of resources. Commissioner, at present, more than 30 international negotiations are under way in the field of external trade, and resources are integral to that. We see this with the agreements where negotiations are, in effect, at an end, such as the agreements with Central America or with Colombia and Peru. Since the conclusion of the negotiations, it has taken 18 months to two years to reach the consent procedure here in the European Parliament, because the translations take forever and because the Legal Services take forever to complete their review. I would thus be most grateful, Commissioner, if your Directorate-General could propose ways of speeding up this process ahead of the forthcoming budget negotiations but also in view of the restructuring of the Commission framework.

 
  
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  Gianluca Susta (S&D). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the resolution before Parliament is an important policy document taking account of the ambitions and concerns that European manufacturers have for some time held with regard to a country that is both a great opportunity for our economy and a great problem.

The EU and Japan together represent more than a third of world GDP and more than 20 % of world trade. These figures alone give us an idea of the importance of the upcoming negotiations. I would have preferred Japan to send out stronger signals than it has done, in my opinion. The most important question remains the removal of the numerous non-tariff barriers (NTBs) by the Japanese as well as regulatory barriers that cannot merely be ascribed to cultural differences. Such removal should be seen as a precondition for reaching a mutually balanced and mutually advantageous agreement.

The outcomes on public procurement and the automotive sector seem particularly decisive for a successful conclusion to negotiations. Japan should open up its market to the same extent as the EU in a spirit of real reciprocity, in particular with regard to NTBs in the automotive sector such as the ‘zoning regulations’ and special fiscal treatment for ‘key cars’. The question of indications of origin for agro-food products including wines and spirits is also important.

Parliament should also ensure that it is continuously informed on the progress of negotiations and that the Commission carry out a second assessment of the impact of a possible free trade agreement with Japan, in particular with regard to more sensitive sectors such as the automotive and electronics industries. This is the only manner in which to provide proper protection to European manufacturing sectors at a time of crisis without compromising our commitment to free, sustainable and fair trade.

 
  
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  Niccolò Rinaldi (ALDE). (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the tone of this debate has changed since June, when we were among the few voices calling for a swift launch to negotiations for a free trade agreement. Japan has always been a very complex case, more difficult to deal with, understand and decipher than many other countries.

We now find ourselves under strong pressure from the Member States and many sectors to move as slowly as possible in the direction of a free trade agreement, as if Japan were enemy number one of European industry.

I urge the Commission to proceed with a dual approach. On the one hand, it must be firm, since we have included several conditions in our resolution that are entirely advantageous, with great emphasis on non-tariff barriers. However, an effort must also be made to ensure that it is used as far as possible to provide opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises, to create the possibility of cultural cooperation with Japan – since as a country it is an ideal candidate with great potential in this area – and to undertake joint scientific research with one of the leading innovators.

The second approach should be to make the agreement a success, since it is much more important than so many other agreements in geopolitical terms. It can serve to stabilise relations with South Korea and our economic and trade relations with China. Let us recall that we are dealing with a great democracy, and that this is one of the chief aspects of the agreement.

 
  
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  Amelia Andersdotter (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, the Pirate Party questions the inclusion of intellectual property rights provisions in the Japan negotiation mandate.

The vision of the EU for intellectual property rights in free trade has already failed at domestic level. ACTA was intensely disliked by citizens, and there are now additional concerns about the negotiations the Commission is having with Canada in the comprehensive economic and trade agreement. Why would we also want these complications with Japan? In addition, Japan causes us no concerns in terms of intellectual property rights. This negotiation exercise comes at a time when, at multilateral level in the World Intellectual Property Organisation, we are for the first time ever advancing the rights of citizens instead of the rights of rights holders in the deliberations on the treaty for the blind. Is there a reason why we are choosing to set aside the multilateral system again at this time and for this topic? Surely there must be better options for us.

 
  
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  Bastiaan Belder (EFD). (NL) In these worrying financial and economic times for the European Union, the prospect of a promising boost is certainly most welcome, and that presents itself in the coming trade talks between the EU and Japan. Paragraphs 2 and 3 of the motion for a resolution clearly point to the significance and potential for the EU of strengthening trade relations with the major global economy of Japan.

At the same time, the motion for a resolution is exceptionally realistic in mentioning the major obstacles en route towards a free trade agreement between the EU and Japan. On the Japanese side the main obstacles are the non-tariff barriers as well as barriers to accessing the government procurement market.

The fact that Parliament would like to keep its finger on the pulse during the Commission’s trade negotiations shows commitment and responsibility, because a positive outcome is what ultimately counts for our citizens. I wish the Commissioner success with the forthcoming negotiations.

 
  
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  María Auxiliadora Correa Zamora (PPE). (ES) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in May 2011 two of the largest trade areas in the world began negotiations with a view to laying the foundations of a free trade agreement, an ambitious agreement that would significantly deepen existing relations between both powers, strengthening their ties, and would cover issues of great importance, such as the removal of tariffs and tariff barriers.

As a result of this agreement, both economies will be more effective and more competitive in a much wider market. The abolition of tariffs and consequent elimination of customs barriers will undoubtedly boost our trade relations.

However, the European Union must stand firm and not forget the commitments it has obtained from Japan, such as the promise to remove non-tariff barriers, in particular those affecting sectors such as the automotive industry or the obstacles to market access in public procurement, commitments that must translate into results, which is the prerequisite if the negotiations under way are to achieve their intended goal.

This is what the members of the Committee on International Trade stated in their motion for a resolution, which will be put to the vote on Thursday. If these conditions are met, in the case of these two mature economies, Europe and Japan, the future agreement will undoubtedly prove a success for both parties.

 
  
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  Josefa Andrés Barea (S&D). (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, in a globalised world, Japan and the European Union are strategic partners with mutual interests. These agreements should be based on mutual trust and mutual responsibility. It takes time to consider an option, but the rate of market penetration in Japan is one of the lowest of all of the industrialised countries: 3 % compared to 30 % in the European Union. Japan must undertake to lower its non-tariff barriers and to remove administrative obstacles to market access in public procurement – such as in respect of leather and footwear – as just one day a year is devoted to public procurement and the quota has not changed since 1996.

There are problems with plant health products, textiles and with the automotive sector. In this agreement, the automotive sector is the main question to be considered, in particular the utility vehicle sector. In Spain, it accounts for 10 % of GDP and 9 % of employment.

Japan therefore needs to work on reducing its tariff barriers, but also on transparency and allowing the European market increased opportunities.

 
  
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  Kristiina Ojuland (ALDE). – Mr President, Commissioner, I would like to congratulate you on the successful conclusion of the discussions on the envisaged FTA with Japan and the adoption of the recommendation for a Council Decision authorising the opening of negotiations.

Mutual commitment to democracy, the rule of law and a free market economy creates a fertile soil for upgrading trade relations. A deep and comprehensive Free Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement would surely contribute to the emergence of new synergy between the partners. Both sides would benefit from such a partnership, which would give an impetus to their respective economies – in particular industry and innovation – at the turbulent time in the world economy in which we find ourselves. Further integration of the European and Japanese economies is also needed to compete with aggressively-growing BRIC nations. There is no time to lose, and I would hope that the Council decision will ensure that you will very soon be able to start negotiations with the Japanese counterparts.

 
  
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  Alojz Peterle (PPE).(SL) Mr President, I congratulate both rapporteurs on their excellent resolution, which reflects an awareness of the need to develop a strategic partnership with Japan. Currently this is the most important trade negotiation that the European Union has been involved in to date.

I share the conviction that a free trade agreement will contribute to strengthening the economic growth of both partners, as well as to improving the balance of trade between the European Union and Japan. Trade liberalisation remains the most appropriate method of stimulating the economy.

The possible short-term turbulence brought about by liberalisation should be viewed from the angle of the long-term positive effects of the agreement.

I support the clarity and decisiveness of the resolution regarding the elimination of non-tariff barriers, including in the area of public procurement, and regarding proposals for the sequence of essential actions, monitoring and the timetable. These proposals will only enhance the credibility of the entire project.

I anticipate that this report will help generate the proper atmosphere to give the Council a green light to start negotiations soon. I view the free trade agreement as an important step towards a more comprehensive economic and political partnership between the European Union and Japan.

 
  
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  Cristian Dan Preda (PPE).(RO) I wish to add my support for the Commission proposal for a free-trade agreement with Japan, known as an important trade and political partner of the Union and one of the world’s biggest economies. In addition, the Commission’s relevant studies show that such an agreement would increase bilateral trade, with gains of EUR 43 billion for the Union, and EUR 53 billion for Japan.

We must, however, ensure that the agreement addresses non-tariff barriers and I appreciate the commitment of our Japanese partners in resolving this matter through internal measures and reforms.

To cite a recent article in the Wall Street Journal by former Prime Minister Hatoyama, the current leader of the Japanese delegation to the European Parliament, the European Union and Japan can form a de facto single market. We share the Japanese opinion in this sense and a common vision on the global markets. The free trade agreement would further strengthen our cooperation.

The real benefits of this agreement – exports, job creation, increased growth and competitiveness of the European Union – would most certainly outweigh the preventable challenges, which we should tackle sooner rather than later.

 
  
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  Pablo Zalba Bidegain (PPE). (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin by underlining my support for free trade agreements as a fundamental means of stimulating the much-longed-for and much-needed economic growth and the creation of jobs. These agreements also boost relations with our allies, in this instance Japan.

The former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama recently stated in an article in the Wall Street Journal that both Brussels and Tokyo had strong ties with Washington, but that the ties between Brussels and Tokyo were not so strong. I agree with him that this agreement could be an opportunity to redress this imbalance.

Nevertheless, at a time when we are considering launching negotiations to conclude a free trade agreement with Japan, I believe that the European Union’s trade strategy should be in keeping with its industrial strategy and I would like to know the Commissioner’s opinion on this point.

In addition, if we want industry’s share of GDP to rise from the current 16 % to 20 %, as proposed in the Europe 2020 agenda, it would make sense, in my opinion, to listen to the concerns of industry itself when it comes to trade policy. The automotive industry is undoubtedly of key importance in this respect. We should therefore listen to its concerns and work with it to ensure that this agreement becomes a reality as soon as possible.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Free trade between the European Union and Japan has a lot of potential, which has yet to be exploited and may be developed by this agreement. Nevertheless, protective measures for key European Union and Member States industries – such as the automobile industry – must be instituted. The car manufacturing sector is important to Romanian companies, such as Dacia, which sees an increased market share in Europe.

Other areas may benefit from a free trade agreement, which would be advantageous for both European suppliers and consumers, the latter being given more choice.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) I am aware that Japan, despite its technological and economic maturity, is not very welcoming when it comes to opening up its own trading area. It is nevertheless essential on our part to continue to make efforts to expand bilateral trade agreements, especially with economically advanced countries, where trade is of advantage to both contracting parties.

I am convinced that a balanced free trade agreement can bring economic profit both for our producers and for the Japanese side. I therefore welcome the agreement reached on the content of the open negotiations and it is to be hoped that the Japanese side will also be interested in achieving progress in resolving sensitive questions such as regulatory obstacles in the automobile industry or rail transport. Our position should be clear. The European Union, like Japan, needs new and effective initiatives to support its economy and well organised, open trade relations are the best way forward.

 
  
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  Catherine Bearder (ALDE). – Mr President, we have a long tradition of trade with Japan, and this free trade agreement is welcome. But the EU also has a proud tradition of human rights and environmental protection in its international agreements. This free trade agreement is an opportunity to demonstrate our joint commitments and concern for our planet’s wellbeing.

Japan must be aware of our concerns about their continued whaling operations and, despite their own forest protection, they remain the largest importer of illegal timber from Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. So, before we can conclude any trade deals, they need to know that we will expect them to clean up their act. We call on Japan to stop the whaling and the Asian forest destruction.

 
  
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  Franck Proust (PPE). (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I do not entirely share the optimism of the majority of my colleagues. Indeed, I fear that we are going too fast. Japan is without doubt a major trading partner for the European Union, but is it a partner that we can fully trust today?

For decades, the Japanese closed their market to us via ever more numerous and original non-tariff barriers. With a view to concluding a free trade agreement with the European Union, Japan promised to remove many of these, but its words were not always followed by actions. Before opening difficult negotiations on a free trade agreement, I would have liked us to be certain that a large number of non-tariff barriers had indeed been removed, so that we could be sure of the willingness and capacity of our partner to play ball.

We are going too fast and we are once again going to begin negotiations that will not come to anything, as was the case with India and Mercosur. I do not understand why we are persisting with Japan, when some of its neighbours have shown themselves to be altogether more open to the European Union, such as Taiwan, which is also an important partner for the Asian region.

 
  
 

(End of the catch-the-eye procedure)

 
  
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  Karel De Gucht, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, in repeated debates in plenary and in committee, I have made it clear that I am a staunch supporter of a free trade agreement with Japan, but also that such support is conditional. We have the scoping exercise and we also have agreement on a number of non-tariff barriers that have to be removed. These cannot be dissociated. It is very clear to me that Japan has to deliver on those NTBs, and within a very clear timetable.

We have agreed on the roadmap, setting out how to do this. I must say that I am not very pleased at the moment, in fact, because there were a couple of obligations Japan should have fulfilled by the end of September, and we are now at the end of October. We should stick to our timetable. I will say this very clearly to our Japanese counterparts; I did so as recently as a week ago, and I will say it again. I will also say it to the Council, at the Council meeting of Ministers responsible for trade that will take place on 29 November.

We have a clear understanding with the Japanese on the scoping exercise and on what needs to be fulfilled and resolved, including for example the zoning problem that has been mentioned by a couple of Members. We should take them at their word, and their words should be followed by deeds.

I think the review clause that a number of Members of Parliament mentioned in their speeches – especially the rapporteur, Mr Kazak – is an essential element. I do not want it to be automatic, however; I do not believe that automaticity is a good negotiating tool. If it should be demonstrated that Japan is not fulfilling its commitments, you should summon me before your Parliament and ask me why I am not putting an end to the negotiations. I do not believe, however, that it is realistic to expect automaticity to work in negotiations.

On sustainability, Mr Bütikofer, that issue will be part of the negotiations and it will be part of the agreements, as by the way it is in the whole new generation of agreements that we have been negotiating. I also believe that, in the case of Japan, there are a number of very important topics in that area that we should address.

Mr Caspary mentioned – although I see that in the meantime he has disappeared – that the only aim of the Japanese is to export more cars to Europe. I do not know about that. It is very interesting to look at their export figures to Europe, because they are gradually going down, not up. They have gone from EUR 900 000 down to about EUR 600 000 over a couple of years. It is also not true that Japan is just exporting smaller cars to Europe. Japan is in fact exporting cars in the mid- and upper range, so we should take care that when we discuss these matters we do so on the basis of the facts.

I have one last remark to make on industrial policy, which Mr Zalba Bidegain mentioned. If I understand his reasoning, it is as follows. If we want industrial production to increase from 16 % to 20 %, then we should take care with the Japanese. I believe this is a very defensive strategy or tactic – whatever you want to call it – for a number of reasons.

First of all, the industrial production share of GDP is not going to go up from 16 % to 20 %. That simply will not happen. To people who make this claim, my answer is to ask what is going down in that case, to make up the full 100 %. What is going down? Services? I cannot see that. Could it be agriculture? I do not think we would like that. Of course, in your country at the moment the industrial sector’s percentage share of GDP is going up, because you have seen a tremendous dip in real estate, which appears in the statistics as services, whilst the industrial sector as such has not changed. What can go up is the output of the industrial sector, and that is in fact happening. If you look locally at Europe, you can see that is what is happening, but not, I believe, in terms of industrial production as a share of GDP. Secondly, I believe the kind of economy that we have can only grow if it is in interaction with the other big players on the world market. We have become very interdependent, and that goes for the United States, Japan, China and also Europe. We have to take that interdependence into account and make sure that our position in that global arena is as strong as possible.

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

Vote: 25 October 2012.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Ivo Belet (PPE), in writing. (NL) The European car industry is good for 12 million jobs, has been hit hard by the financial-economic crisis and by ever increasing competition from third countries. Today we are facing the prospect of possible negotiations on a free trade agreement between the EU and Japan. We must be very careful here not to put the car industry under even more pressure. Just look at Ford Genk in Belgium, where there is currently great social unrest due to the possible restructuring/closure of the factory. We must ensure that the guarantee that we build in today, namely the eradication by Japan of the non-tariff barriers that impact upon the car industry, will be complied with in the future. This is the only way that our companies can compete fairly with Japanese companies. We should come to a judgment about the abolition of the non-tariff barriers within the year and on that basis take a decision on a future free trade agreement with Japan.

 
  
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  Béla Glattfelder (PPE), in writing. (HU) Japan is the European Union’s third most important trading partner. Concluding the free trade agreement would bring innumerable advantages for both parties. Europe would be able to increase its exports and thereby generate new jobs. Hungary has a particular interest in the launch of free trade negotiations as this could greatly facilitate Hungarian agricultural exports to this country in the Far East. As a result of the agreement, the Japanese automotive industry could make further investments in Europe and in Hungary, which would create new jobs.

 
  
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  Marc Tarabella (S&D), in writing. (FR) I remember, some time ago now, being one of a handful of Members to criticise several entire sections of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The text willingly ran roughshod over individual freedoms and rules on the processing of personal data, among other things. When they heard our arguments, many laughed in our faces, and Commissioner De Gucht told us that we had nothing to worry about. There were just a handful of us but, through hard work, we managed to persuade a majority to reject this freedom-destroying text. Next came the negotiation of a trade agreement between Europe and Canada: the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Imagine my surprise when I found that the agreement contained entire paragraphs from ACTA. Commissioner De Gucht told me not to worry about it. It should be noted that the text has been amended since, but it still contains some delicate passages. You will thus understand why I am concerned that the new agreement between Europe and Japan that we are talking about today may contain another Trojan horse, with fresh attempts at policy laundering thrown in. European citizens would be grateful if you could allay their fears.

 
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