Ladies and Gentlemen,
We live in exceptionally interesting times. Just last Thursday the leaders of Japan and the EU shook hands on a new Economic Partnership Agreement – or EPA - that will cover 30% of world GDP and 40% of world trade.
It is a good and important sign that we send to the world and it proves that we want to shape globalisation.
At this occasion, I also want to thank the business community for having supported this agreement.
Let me start with the EPA and what it means for you as business leaders of Europe and Japan, how it will boost our economies and promote our shared values.
Through this agreement, we underline our claim to be global players who take our leadership responsibilities seriously.
Europe already has close ties with Japan. We export goods and services worth over €80 billion to Japan each year - our sixth most important trading partner.
600,000 jobs in the EU are tied to exports to Japan and Japanese companies employ more than half a million people in the EU.
As the fourth largest economy of the world, Japan has a big appetite for European products. Currently EU exporters pay €1 billion in export duties to Japan each year and on agricultural products they face average tariffs of over 20 %.
With falling barriers and a cut in custom duties, we expect a major boost of exports in many sectors of the EU economy and new opportunities for European companies, big and small ones, for their employees and for the consumers.
This deal has the potential to increase exports from the EU by as much as €20 billion, meaning more jobs in sectors , ranging from agriculture and food products to pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
But also Japanese companies will also benefit – as will European consumers – when they have more opportunities to buy high-quality cars and consumer goods.
This deal will not only help big companies. We also focus on helping small and medium-sized enterprises who are disproportionately affected by trade barriers. That is why we want to have a dedicated chapter for them in the agreement.
But as you all know – trade agreements are nowadays not only about trade. That does not make negotiations easier, but it is important for us to anchor our core values and principles.
So, the agreement also deals with subjects like environmental protection, climate change, securing energy supply and ensures regional stability.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Japan is a like-minded partner, an established democracy with high product standards and consumer protection, and a strong supporter of climate action.
As with Canada, these shared values makes it easier to find agreement on common standards that we want to see on a global scale.
And I am happy to announce that we did set high standards with this agreement. We used the same safeguards and protections as in CETA when it comes to labour, safety, environmental and consumer protection. We fully safeguard public services and have dedicated a chapter on sustainable development.
And we will build on and even reinforce the high standards for the protection of personal data that both, the EU and Japan, have recently entrenched in their data protection laws.
And in some areas the agreement even goes beyond CETA. For example, the deal is the first and only international trade agreement to include a clear commitment to fight climate change and support implementation of the Paris agreement. That is a big step forward and an important commitment in our times.
In the challenging global context, alongside the EPA, we also signed an important Strategic Partnership Agreement. This demonstrates our will to work together for peace, prosperity and a rules-based international order.
These values of democracy, the rule of law and our determination to promote together an open and fair global economy will benefit everyone – including the business community as these values set a common level playing field for a fair and transparent business interaction based on the rule of law.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Just a few weeks ago we published a reflection paper on harnessing globalisation.
In the paper, we emphasized that we need to address globalisation head on and get ourselves prepared for its impacts, as it is a process that cannot be turned back.
The European Union – as the world's largest trader, investor and development assistance provider – is uniquely place to shape globalisation in a way that maximises its potential benefits for sustainable and inclusive growth, while minimising and mitigating the costs – both perceived and actual.
We made very clear that we want to further engage and support free and rules-based trade and that we want to set these rules according to our principles and values and not only interests, in order to create it a win-win-situation for all of us.
With the Economic partnership agreement, we are doing exactly this and are sending a strong message to the world that we stand for open and fair trade. We do not believe that there is protection in protectionism.
So let's keep the drawbridge down and let's continue to harness globalisation according to our rules. It is in our best interest and will increase our well-being. The agreement with Japan sets the correct coordinates to further navigate trade in the right direction.
We are really close to finalize the FTA and will continue our close and cooperative negotiations.
And I am convinced that we should even further deepen our cooperation in order to shape globalisation.
I wish you a successful meeting today and fruitful discussions on the way ahead.
Thank you for your attention.