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Yes, this is a historic moment.
Ich War’s. Tagebuch – — asa nisi masa
In front of us, we have the most important bilateral trade agreement ever concluded by the EU. As a result, European products and services will get major new opportunities in the Japanese market. Acknowledging the successful outcome of the negotiations, all EU economic sectors are now speaking in favour of this agreement, including the agri—food sector, which will benefit from new export opportunities while protecting geographical indications. No matter how relevant it may be from the economic point of view, however, this agreement is, above all, of major strategic importance.
It gives us the chance to shape the global agenda at a time of rising protectionism, thus sending a clear and timely signal in favour of an open, fair and rules—based trading system. We should not miss this opportunity to promote our own values and standards in the Asia—Pacific region and in global trade. I would not be standing here as rapporteur supporting this EU—Japan Agreement if it were not a progressive trade agreement: an agreement clearly belonging to a new generation of trade agreements, in which sustainable development matters and environment, labour rights and consumer protection matter.
Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect agreement, but this agreement recognises the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is the first trade agreement with a reference to the Paris Agreement on climate change and it fully respects public services and the right to regulate. Moreover, it includes not only a commitment to pursue the ratification of the core International Labour Organisation ILO conventions but also a review clause for improving the enforceability of labour and environmental rules.
Japan, it is fair to say, has made substantial efforts, even before the entry into force of the agreement, and it is already discussing at inter—ministerial level the implementation of its sustainable development commitments. This should be warmly welcomed as a very good sign. Parliament has closely followed these negotiations from the beginning. We were supportive but also demanding.
Last Friday, the Japanese Parliament approved the agreement. Tomorrow this Parliament will have the final say. My position as rapporteur is that this trade agreement is economically balanced and of major strategic importance. Furthermore, it clearly represents a step forward on sustainable development.
As you know, the foundations of world trade are being shaken right now, and it is therefore important for the EU and its partners to reinforce their ties and to demonstrate the value of free economic exchanges based on fair rules, as opposed to whim and transactional strength, and Japan is clearly one such partner. The EPA has a strategic importance and an unquestionable economic and political value.
It supports free and fair trade and helps the EU to make further inroads in the Far East, after a free trade agreement with South Korea. We have every interest in the European Union in cooperating with Japan to secure a free and open environment in the region in Asia. Important longstanding non-tariff barriers will be removed in the car sector, as the EU and Japan have agreed to reinforce international standards and to rely on them in defining the regulatory framework. European companies will be able to bid on equal terms for public procurement contracts, including at sub-central level for the 54 largest cities in Japan.
European origin names for more than foodstuffs will be protected against misuse. We also have a specific chapter on small and medium-sized enterprises, in which we commit to supporting our SMEs through dedicated information portals and contact points. This is clearly economically beneficial and it is intended to provide a basis for advancing important EU priorities regarding the economic transition towards a socially and environmentally sustainable model of growth and the protection of areas of overriding interest to public policy, such as health, safety and individual privacy.
The EPA protects the European model of regulation. Under the regulatory cooperation provisions, we will engage with Japan on common responses to new technological challenges, from electric vehicles to product standards, to reducing waste. The agreement lays the groundwork for bilateral engagement on social protection rules. Japan is a country committed to sustainable development provisions and it has established an inter-ministerial group to work on their implementation.
It is important for us in the EU to protect our economic and social model by spurring sustainable growth through free and fair trade and by cooperating with a friend and ally like Japan in the defence of these common interests. This agreement has been designed to spur our trade with, and our competitiveness in, a major economy with which, moreover, the EU must cooperate to defend open economic relations and develop sound international standards.
I hope that Parliament will send out a strong global signal tomorrow by voting with a strong majority for this agreement. A strong EU-Japan partnership is more important than ever in an international context in which these values and principles are, as you know, being challenged.
We need to work together and to show joint leadership. It will help us to make a positive contribution to the shaping of a cooperative regional order and it will help us to promote joint interests in the global arena. In this way, the benefits of the partnership go well beyond our bilateral relations. The agreement provides for close cooperation on global issues.
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Japan is, in fact, an indispensable partner in tackling many of the challenges that we both face — including climate change and cybersecurity. Japan is an important partner when it comes to development aid and humanitarian assistance. This is very important because it will help us to strengthen cooperation on security, crisis management and peace-keeping and we will do so jointly. The EU and Japan have been able to promote sustainable, rules-based connectivity in Europe, Asia and the Pacific, so we are bringing Asia and Europe closer via this agreement, and that reflects the policy direction contained in our global strategy.
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We have a lot to gain here by sharing experiences when we address these issues. The SPA will serve as a charter, underpinning our partnership, helping us turn our political ambitions into concrete action and joint initiatives. The European Parliament has a crucial role here in adopting the agreement. In addition, there are the EU-Japan interparliamentary meetings, the parliamentary diplomacy that makes a valuable contribution to our existing and future strategic partnership.
So the importance of these exchanges is explicitly enshrined in the Strategic Partnership Agreement.
We are now working with the European Parliament, the European Data Protection Board and the EU governments to scrutinise our findings and make sure our assessment is correctly informed. The adequacy decision is of crucial importance because, with the adequacy in place, we will be able to create the biggest area of safe flow of data between our economies.
While our citizens will benefit from greater privacy protection, our economies will also benefit from easier transfer of personal data. The most crucial aspect is, of course, that of convergence, the similarity of our data protection regime. At the same time, Japan also is a country that has recently decided to change its approach to data protection by adopting a law that shares all key elements of our European General Data Protection Regulation.
Actually, it is difficult to find another country outside the EU that has inspired itself so much from our approach to privacy. The Japanese law contains the same core principles, safeguards and individual rights as we know them from our law. These rules are checked and enforced by an independent supervisory authority — the Personal Information Protection Commission — which was also our main interlocutor throughout the adequacy negotiations.
According to the Court of Justice, adequacy does not require a photocopy of our rules; the mechanism can differ, but the overall level of protection has to be essentially equivalent. It is our main benchmark in all the negotiations of possible adequacy decisions with other countries. This is also why we have negotiated a set of additional safeguards, which address the few relevant differences that we have found comparing the European and Japanese systems. We have also obtained the creation of an ad hoc complaint resolution mechanism, easily accessible for EU citizens in the sensitive area of government access to data.
All the elements we have negotiated will ensure a high level of protection for data transfers to Japan.
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This type of convergence with the EU data protection system is exactly what the European Parliament has been calling for. It would thus be very important for your resolution to welcome it. This brings me to the strategic importance of this decision. As you know, Japan is one of our most important trading partners, and thus the destination of a large volume of data.
This underlines both the need for protection and the economic relevance of the adequacy finding. In this process we have engaged intensively with all stakeholders, with the data protection authorities, with the European Data Protection Board, Member States and, of course, with the European Parliament. And this has already helped to clarify and strengthen a number of elements in the decision. I am therefore confident that we can finalise this process and adopt the adequacy decision as soon as possible. On the Japanese side, the Japanese data protection authority has already finalised its adequacy assessment for the EU and the timing of its decision will be synchronised so that we have both adequacy findings on the same day.
Together, these mutual adequacy decisions will create the largest area of safe and free data flows in the world, thus complementing the Economic Partnership Agreement and increasing its benefits. This will also send a strong message to other countries that it is worth bringing their data protection framework closer to ours and, in other words, that convergence pays off.
This will also confirm that the EU approach works while we are keeping the parallel tracks of negotiations, and personal data are not part of the trade talks. This proves we can work together to enhance strategic partnership with our allies and support the objective of secure data flows between our economies. In the end, this is a win—win situation — a win for the citizens and a win for the traders. It is time for our businesses, especially SMEs, and our consumers to start enjoying the benefits of this landmark agreement. Why is this agreement of such importance? Well, for many reasons.
First of all, the huge economic gains. Secondly, its chapter on sustainable development, including our renewed commitment to the Paris Agreement.
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It is a clear win-win agreement that comes at a critical geopolitical moment, where trade wars can be triggered by a simple tweet and unilateral tariffs barriers are raised. Responsibility lies heavily on our shoulders to stand up for our values and our social and environmental standards. I can think of no better ally than the Land of the Rising Sun for such a free, fair and open trade regime. Primo, a livello geopolitico l'Unione sta riempiendo il vuoto lasciato dagli Stati Uniti di Trump.
Stiamo costruendo un nuovo ordine commerciale globale basato su regole che contrastano gli effetti negativi della globalizzazione. I trattati commerciali sono uno strumento, non un fine. It is our strategic partner, our G20 colleague and a hugely important ally on the global stage on various fronts, starting with climate change, the sustainable development goals and WTO reform and defence of rules—based international trade.
We now have a unique opportunity to finalise the ratification process and get the deal approved during this parliamentary term so that it can enter into force as soon as possible. The Commission has redoubled its efforts, the Austrian and also the upcoming Romanian Presidencies are committed to it, and we have to do our best to complete the consent procedure.
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