Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 19:00 - 20:00
"FTA and EU - Japan Relationship"
Hans Dietmar Schweisgut
Ambassador of the European Union to Japan
Free trade agreements (FTAs) are all the fashion at the moment. Korea sealed a free trade agreement with the US in 2011, and Japan is under pressure to sign a similar breakthrough deal with the European Union.
But the publicity surrounding these efforts, including the fuss about the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, has not been matched by progress in actually delivering these deals. Within Europe, car makers are up in arms against an FTA with Japan, as duties on Japan's hyper-competitive cars would disappear.
Within Japan, too, there are numerous opponents to an FTA, especially as FTAs these days focus less on tariffs (as has traditionally bee the case) and more on the so-called 'non-tariff barriers'. Foreign exporters to Japan frequently complain of a dizzying array of such barriers which are not quite discrimination against foreign goods, but at any rate end up make it very difficult for foreign companies to expand their markets in Japan.
Obstacles include contradictory but legally binding rules from different ministries, and months if not years taken to resolve these issues. Other examples include bans on certain widely accepted food ingredients on health grounds, while allowing ingredients which have been outlawed in the rest of the world, also on health grounds. Auto makers have to contend with Japan-specific tests - so specific in fact that one set of tests was ruled invalid because the stand for testing the engine did not conform to bureaucratic specifications. As a result, this auto-maker has to specially adapt its engines solely for the Japan market, at huge cost eventually to the Japanese consumer.
The EU Ambassador to Japan Hans Dietmar Schweisgut will discuss these difficult issues and provide a sense of how close both parties are to a happy ending. He will also discuss efforts to complete a parallel strategic and political agreement. The latter may eventually be as important as the FTA given the tensions in the South China seas. Do come to this event if you are interested in the economic and political relationship between the world's largest and third-largest economies.