The European Union and Japan have given a green light to the world’s biggest free trade zone. The grand economic project that has been approved by 70 percent of European Parliament lawmakers will be launched in early 2019. The deal, which brings together two economies that account for about a third of global gross production, is also an important signal against trade protectionism. While both the EU and Japan would like to hold talks with the United States, both have trade disputes with the White House and their steel and aluminum are still being subjected to tariff.
The bloc’s Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom commented that the agreement would yield benefits to EU companies and farmers. The Japanese parliament approved the deal over the weekend. “If all goes well, it should be able to enter force on 1 February,” she told Reuters in an interview. “The agreement is not only sending a signal to the world. It is also extremely advanced when it comes to opening markets.”
Japan had also been included in the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership that US President Donald Trump rejected right away after assuming the office, thus forcing Tokyo to look for other partners. Brussels has also broadened its horizons after Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations with the United States hit the ground in 2016. The EU finalized an updated a trade agreement with Mexico earlier this year. “Everyone knows there is a tariff man on the other side of the Atlantic. Our answer is clear. We are not tariff men, but the people of fair trade,” commented Bernd Lange, the head of the European Parliament’s Trade Committee.