Japan and the European Union (EU) wrapped up the eighth round of negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) on Friday, the Foreign Ministry announced here. At the five-day of talks in Tokyo, the two sides held fruitful discussions on areas such as trade in goods, trade in services, investment, intellectual property rights, non-tariff measures, government procurement and others, according to the ministry. The next round of negotiations is scheduled to take place in Brussels in February. Japan is the EU's second biggest trading partner in Asia, after China. Together Japan and the EU account for more than a third of the world's GDP, according to the EU.
Meanwhile, citing negotiation sources, Kyodo News Agency said Japan and the EU struggled to fill gaps over the opening up of the Japanese electricity and gas markets, one of the European side's key interests, during their latest talks. The 28-country bloc has called for more transparency in procurement procedures and greater market access in the areas of electricity and gas to facilitate European suppliers' participation in such projects as building new thermal-power plants, the report said. But Japan has maintained its stance that it is difficult for the government to intervene in private-sector businesses. Japan also wants the EU to eliminate its 10 percent duties on Japanese automobiles, but there was little progress on the matter during the latest talks, the report said.
The two sides are aiming to reach a broad accord on the FTA by the end of next year.