Less than a decade ago, Japan and the European Union were seen as protectionist and the chances of them signing a Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) were slim. However, Japan and the EU surpass the world`s largest free trade agreement, surpassing both the agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada and the comprehensive and progressive agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in terms of gross domestic product (GDP). The EPA BETWEEN the EU and Japan does not only link two economies worth nearly $25 trillion; it sets the standards for 21st century trade agreements. The EPA and the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SSC) were launched in 2011, shortly after the tragedy of the great earthquake in eastern Japan. Negotiations on the EPA began in April 2013 and were rather slow at first. But the pace accelerated when the international environment began to change. The two sides agreed on the principle in July 2017, shortly after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, making it clear that the EU and Japan remain committed to free trade. Negotiations on the EPA finally ended in December 2017 and the heads of state and government of Japan and the EU signed the agreement in Tokyo last summer, before proceeding with rapid ratification. First, the agreement aims for deep and sustainable cooperation, based on common values and principles, rather than focusing, in a short period of time, on more specific outcomes in certain areas. The OSG clearly cites democracy, the rule of law, human rights and freedoms as common core values. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in his September 2019 speech to the EU-Asia Liaison Forum that “our SPA has made us the guardians of universal values,” he added.
“We take responsibility for looking carefully and then putting into practice the types of governance that are desirable, and if we want to establish rules, the type we should define.” Without elaborating, the Joint Committee announced in January that Brussels and Tokyo would “intensify work on connectivity, security and digital technology. Add “effective multilateralism,” “climate and environment” and “security” and there will be a comprehensive list of the priority areas mentioned above, which Brussels and Japan will focus on (hopefully). Promoting connectivity is clearly the priority of EU-Japan cooperation initiatives on the ground. In September 2019, Brussels and Tokyo adopted the “EU-Japan Partnership for Sustainable Connectivity and Better Infrastructure.” The EU-Japan infrastructure agreement will be backed by a 60 billion euro EU guarantee fund, which, after the Brussels announcement, will attract new investment from development banks and private investors. Japan and the European Union (EU) launched the new year with a triple success. In addition to the entry into force on 1 February of the world`s largest free trade agreement, the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the creation of the “world`s largest safe data flow space” and the partial implementation of the EU-Japan STRATEGIC Partnership Agreement were also carried out. The three strategic, economic and digital agreements are at the heart of potentially the most important bilateral relations in terms of the protection and promotion of free trade, multilateralism and rules-based order.