Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Shiojiri

at the Committee on International Trade

European Parliament, 26 April 2012


1. Opening

              Mr. Chairman, distinguished Committee members,

First of all, I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to exchange views with you on Japan-EU trade relations, undoubtedly one of the most important relations in the world economy.

              As you may be aware, there is an exhibition under way in this Parliament building, titled “Kizuna (Solidarity) in Reconstruction: One Year After the Great East Japan Earthquake.” We will not forget the solidarity European people showed when the unprecedented natural disaster struck Japan. Let me take this opportunity to once again express our profound gratitude to all of you. Turning eyes to Europe, Europe is fighting to overcome the sovereign debt crisis. In this situation, Japan has been purchasing EFSF bonds, and last week, ahead of other countries, in order to show our solidarity, Japan announced its contribution to the IMF resource increase to the amount of 60 billion dollars and encouraged others to follow us, in spite of a situation where Japan itself is fighting to overcome its own challenges. This is out of our sincere wish to stand by Europe when things are rough, just as you have stood by all the Japanese people.

After the disaster, we learned the importance to keep things moving forward, however difficult and cruel the situations can be. We chose a way to open up Japan for reconstruction and to sustain growth by introducing invigoration from outside of Japan. We are now in the process of consultations for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, and working towards launch of the Japan-China-Korea EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement) and the Japan-EU EPA. This thought is precisely in line with your own recognition shown in the report of the European Parliament in June 2011 on a New Trade Policy for Europe under the Europe 2020 Strategy. This report clearly says that opening trade leads to higher productivity, contributes to increased external competitiveness and brings significant consumer benefits. What we would like to realize by the Japan-EU EPA is fully in line with what your report mentioned.

Today I would like to reaffirm our objectives and our determination towards the ambitious Japan-EU EPA.

2. Objectives of the agreement

              The objectives we are pursuing through the conclusion of the Japan-EU EPA are, firstly, mutual reinvigoration of our economies. Our cabinet decision regarding the basic policy on comprehensive economic partnership clearly mentioned, “the Government of Japan is absolutely resolved to ‘open up the country’ and ‘pioneer a new future’” in promoting high-level economic partnerships. Both Japan and the EU are facing two common challenges: fiscal consolidation and economic growth. We should aim at strong growth through further expanding trade and investment.

Second, it is to react to the new global economic dynamism surrounding Japan and the EU. We should take the lead jointly in global rule-making. Japan’s network with South East Asian countries through the existing EPAs and planned Japan-Korea-China EPA and Regional Economic Partnership makes Japan an ideal pivotal strategic partner for European business.

In pursuing these two objectives, we have to achieve the reconstruction of our economies, which should be more innovative, competitive and sustainable.

              Thirdly, we should conduct ourselves, always having in mind that both Japan and the EU have been, are, and shall be responsible global leaders in this increasingly unpredictable world. In light of the current situation in the Doha Development Agenda, Japan and the EU should lead other countries, setting an example by concluding a comprehensive high-standard economic agreement commensurate with two responsible global leaders.

3. Progress

              In order to achieve these ultimate objectives, Japan has been and will continue to be seriously engaged in institutional and regulatory reforms as part of our own agenda for growth. This is what our Prime Minister Noda has been repeatedly expressing. We established the Government Revitalization Unit in 2009, and this unit is the main vehicle for regulatory reforms. The chairperson of this unit is Prime Minister Noda himself.

Earlier this month, business leaders of both sides got together in Tokyo at the Japan-EU Business Round Table. Its recommendation calls for the acceleration of works towards the launch of EPA negotiations on the basis of a successful scoping.

              In the current scoping exercise, taking this recommendation into account, we are talking about the scope and level of ambition of the negotiations. Now we are approaching completion of this work. We believe that the good scoping exercise will make negotiations fruitful and expedited.

While negotiation is yet to begin, we have been clearly demonstrating our readiness and capability to address regulatory issues the EU has keen interests in. The above mentioned body, the Government Revitalization Unit, is undertaking specific requests from the EU, considering that it would contribute to the revitalization of Japan. Through discussions in this unit, since last year authorities in Japan have already taken concrete steps in a number of issues such as on automobile service shops, liqueur wholesale license and food additives. In its interim report on 13 April, it also presented proposals for reforms such as on automobiles, radio equipments, medical devices, food additives and pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, we made progress on automotive safety devices, organic food, drug-lags and device-lags, and insurance products. Concerning government procurement, we have created a single access website in English which provides the tender information, going beyond the WTO obligations.

While we have been implementing what we can do at this moment, we are intend to further address non-tariff measures proactively and pursue enhanced access opportunities to procurement in the negotiations.

Since last year a number of business dialogues between industries of Japan and the EU have been actively held. Further to the Japan-EU Business Round Table and the talks between Nippon Keidanren and BUSINESSEUROPE, sectoral associations in automotives (ACEA), information technology (DIGITALEUROPE), textiles (EURATEX), chemicals (CEFIC), medical equipments (COCIR) and pharmaceuticals (EFPIA) had dialogues with their respective Japanese counter-associations. A dialogue for railway sectors (UNIFE) was also organized. These dialogues will not only contribute to strengthening the economic relationship, but also to finding problems business people are encountering. Some of the outcomes of these dialogues have been reflected in the scoping exercises and, needless to say, we will consider them in the negotiations. The most important task for the governments in the EPA negotiations is to create better business environment for both Japanese and European industries. A Japan-EU EPA will further expand opportunities for EU firms to invest in and export goods and services to Japan.

4. Conclusion

30 years ago, as a young diplomat I worked in the Mission of Japan to the European Communities at that time. There were fierce trade frictions such as in automotives and electronics, and it was often stressed that it would be necessary to strengthen the relationship between Japan and Europe. After 30 years, I came back to Brussels as the Ambassador of Japan to the European Union. My mission here is to enhance our relations to the level deserving two global responsible leaders. I believe that the conclusion of the EPA is the best conceivable way to achieve such a goal. We should take hold of the chance and not miss it.

              Thank you for your attention.