BERLIN, (AFP) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday called for swift progress in talks with the European Union to nail a free-trade pact, in an address to German business leaders.
“We’re putting all our strength into achieving an economic partnership accord with the EU,” Abe told an industry forum in the German capital, kicking off the first leg of a nine-day visit to European countries.
“To advance the negotiations for a quick conclusion of the agreement, we’d like all your active support,” he added, through an interpreter.
Japan views its economic partnership with Europe as an “important pillar” of its growth strategy, Abe said.
The EU and Japan launched trade talks a year ago, aiming for a tie-up that would account for about 40 percent of global trade.
Brussels is due to decide next month whether to press on or suspend the negotiations with Tokyo, which in parallel is seeking a Pacific-wide free trade deal in talks with the United States.
The EU wants progress on non-tariff barriers in certain Japanese markets, while for Tokyo, a key issue is that Brussels dismantle customs duties on Japanese autos, a sensitive topic for big car producer and exporter, Germany.
“My brother drives a BMW,” Abe told Matthias Wissmann, vice-president of the BDI Federation of German Industry and head of Germany’s VDA automobile federation.
The Japanese premier later meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel before heading on to Britain, Portugal, Spain, France and Belgium.
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