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Japan signs trade deal with EU to clear tariffs

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, and European Council President Donald Tusk smile after a joint press conference at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, July 17, 2018. (AFP photo)

Japan and the European Union have finalized a major trade agreement that would eliminate tariffs for any exports between the two countries.

The deal was signed in Tokyo on Tuesday between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and two top EU figures.

The deal, which had been agreed upon in December, would clear all trade barriers that face everything from Japanese industrial products to European agricultural items.

The two sides accelerated their negotiations over the deal after the United States slapped allies in Europe and rivals with tariffs. US President Donald Trump has showed no sign of compromise on the duties he has imposed on EU imports.

European Council President Donald Tusk said after the agreement was signed that it was a signal to the United States that Japan and the EU would stand together against protectionism.

“It's a light in the increasing darkness of international politics,” Tusk said, adding, “We are predictable, responsible, and will continue defending a world order based on rules, freedom and transparency and common sense.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the deal showed that Japan and the EU would be better off when they work together.

Japan’s Abe said his country and the EU wanted to show to the entire world that they were “the champions of free trade at a time when protectionism has spread.”

The deal is the biggest ever negotiated by the EU as it would create a free trade zone covering nearly a third of the world's gross domestic product (GDP), according to Margaritis Schinas, spokesman for the European Commission.

Japan and the EU have almost completed all negotiations needed for the agreement and should only focus on a dispute resolution mechanism.

The deal was expected to be signed in the Belgian capital, Brussels, last week but it was moved to a ceremony in Tokyo after Abe canceled his European tour over devastating floods at home that have killed over 220 people.

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