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06 July 2017

EU-Japan Summit: JEFTA “concluded” despite being not.

Commission hopes to evade scrutiny by moving to ‘technical’ phase of talks

Simon McKeagney, Editor

Today the EU and Japan announced the “political conclusion” of the EU-Japan free trade agreement, (coined ‘JEFTA’ by civil society) despite not having discussed vast parts of the agreement and without any consolidated text in existence.  

The sprawling deal, which will potentially encompass a quarter of global GDP, is being negotiated less than a year after the TTIP negotiations came to a shuddering halt, following mass protests in Europe, and disquiet over trade policy in the US. 

In a move aimed at highlighting its’ difference to Trump, the EU Commission has rushed to showcase progress on the EU-Japan deal, while painting those with criticism of the current trade policies as “protectionist”. However, the details of the agreement have remained largely elusive throughout the negotiation process and virtually no information was made public before the Greenpeace leaks on June 30.

Following the summit’s press conference with Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and President Tusk, the Commission announced it will release a tranche of documents since shared with members of the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee (INTA). Many sensitive issues, such as services, regulatory cooperation and market access have not yet been negotiated.  

Concluding a trade deal that does not yet exist

Green/EFA shadow rapporteur Klaus Buchner said today: “The Commission is congratulating themselves on concluding an agreement that does not yet exist. You have to ask why? Of course it is a political stunt, but we are concerned about what happens now, when the negotiations move away from the spotlight.”

Following the conclusion, the negotiations are set to move into a “technical” phase, where a variety of issues are due to be dealt with. However, during the CETA negotiations, once the talks moved to a technical level, members of the European Parliament stopped receiving briefings, updates and negotiation documents. Buchner is concerned that this will be the case in JEFTA too:

“From here on in, all information stops. Yet most of the controversial issues are yet to be solved. Regulatory cooperation, investment protection, services- all of these issues are still on the table even if they didn’t make it into the conclusion today. If we thought the TTIP fight would help to improve matters on transparency, it seems the Commission has taken steps backwards instead.”

Details of deal ‘alarming’

Ska Keller, Co-President of the Greens/EFA Group added: 

'The little we know about the deal is alarming: public services are not well protected and the precautionary principle is not part of the agreement. Items like regulatory cooperation and private investor courts are also still on the negotiation table. Further, the sustainable development chapter of the agreement needs to include effective measures to protect the environment, such as provisions on the global moratorium on whale hunting."

"Comprehensive agreements like JEFTA need to benefit citizens on both sides and must not harm either the environment, or third countries or regions. They require an open and transparent debate and cannot be concluded in the dark or by rushing the agreement through the decision making process."

 

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