EU-Japan Summit : Trade Deal and Security Tensions in Focus

Written by | Monday, December 2nd, 2013

The summit between the European Union and Japan that concluded last week ended with a ringing affirmation of Brussels’ and Tokyo’s intention to conclude a free-trade deal as soon as possible. Both sides stressed that they would seek to swiftly conclude negotiations on the “ambitious market access offers on trade in goods, trade in services and procurement, and address the issues of non-tariff measures and railways”.
This declaration was clearly designed to demonstrate the level of political backing for trade negotiations that began in April 2013 while allaying lingering concerns about the prospects for the deal. Although economic growth and job creation still remain the most important goals of the summit, events since the summit – notably simmering security tensions between China and Japan over their maritime borders – highlight the growing emphasis that the EU is placing on its security concerns for the region. These tensions have recently, as China declared on Saturday (23 November) that planes flying through airspace above the disputed Senkaku/ Diaoyu Islands would face “emergency defensive measures” unless they obeyed Chinese commands.
While China’s move prompted Washington to warn Beijing that the islands are covered by an agreement with Japan that obliges the U.S. to repel any “common danger”, the EU has yet to respond to China’s latest steps. However, the EU’s summit with Japan ended in a statement that dwelt at unusual length on security issues. Though senior EU officials did not comment directly on the escalating tensions in Northeast Asia, they made clear that the EU backs Japan’s diplomacy over territorial disputes. It also voiced support for Japan’s deepening co-operation with the EU in security operations outside the region.

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