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EU-Japan trade deal to benefit clothing and footwear

The EU and Japan have today (6 July) announced an agreement "in principle" on trade between the two markets that could benefit a number of sectors including leather, clothing and footwear.

While some technical details still need to be finalised, the agreement paves the way for tariff-free trade between two of the world's biggest economic areas.

In a joint statement, European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the pact would "bring our two economies closer," adding: "This agreement will allow us to renew and strengthen our joint commitment to international standards for an even closer cooperation in the future."

The deal follows the collapse of the long-awaited Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement between Japan, the US and other Pacific ring countries, which was scrapped in January by US President Donald Trump.

"This agreement has an enormous economic importance, but it is also a way to bring us closer," said Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström. "We are demonstrating that the EU and Japan, democratic and open global partners, believe in free trade. That we believe in building bridges, not walls. With Japan being the fourth largest economy of the world with a big appetite for European products, this is a deal that has a vast potential for Europe. We expect a major boost of exports in many sectors of the EU economy."

The Economic Partnership Agreement is expected to increase EU exports and create new opportunities for European companies, big and small, their employees and the consumer. The value of exports from the EU could increase by as much as EUR20bn, the European Commission says, meaning more possibilities and jobs in many EU sectors such as agriculture and food products, leather, clothing and shoes, and pharmaceuticals.

More specifically, tariffs on industrial products will be fully abolished, for instance in sectors where the EU is very competitive, such as textiles and clothing. For leather and shoes, the existing quota system that the Commission says has been significantly hampering EU exports will be abolished at the agreement's entry into force. Tariffs on shoes will be cut from 30% to 21% at entry into force, with the rest of the duties being eliminated over ten years. Tariffs on EU exports of leather products, such as handbags, will be eliminated over ten years, as will be those on products that are traditionally highly protected by Japan, such as sports shoes and ski boots.

Negotiators from both sides will now work to resolve all remaining technical issues and are expected to conclude a final text of the agreement by the end of the year. The Commission will then proceed to the legal verification and translation of the agreement into all EU official languages, and submit it for the approval of EU Member States and the European Parliament.

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