European Union signs biggest ever trade deal and attacks Donald Trump

EU rejects protectionism in huge trade deal with Japan

"There are rising concerns about protectionism, but I want Japan and the European Union to lead the world by bearing the flag of free trade", Mr Abe said at a news conference after the signing ceremony.

The Japan-EU Free Trade Agreement will eliminate almost all tariffs between the bloc and the world's third biggest economy.

The pact - which both Japan and the European Union aim to have come into force by early next year - will abolish or reduce tariffs on industrial products and agricultural items between the two sides and sets rules on investment, which is expected to help enhance opportunities for further two-way trade and investment.

It will cover a third of the global economy and 600 million people, after it is ratified by the European Parliament.

European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker inked the agreement, together with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at a ceremony in Tokyo.

Brexit has also weighed on the minds of Tokyo trade negotiators.

Japan and the European Union became the targets of recent US import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum products.

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Japan's ambassador for worldwide economic affairs, Yoichi Suzuki, has previously said it was 'a very high priority that [the deal] enter force before the end of March 2019, ' referring to the date when Britain is set to leave the EU.

"We are sending a clear message that we stand together against protectionism", EU Council President Donald Tusk said.

Abe had been scheduled to sign the deal in Brussels last week, but cancelled his trip after devastating floods that killed more than 220 people.

Prices of European wine and pork will fall for Japanese consumers. The difference reflects exceptions on such products as rice, which enjoys strong political protection from imports in Japan.

The major step toward liberalizing trade has been discussed since 2013.

Those duties prompted retaliatory tariffs on US goods, ranging from blue jeans to bourbon to motorcycles, ramping up tensions between Washington and some of its closest allies.

The US this month imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34bn of Chinese goods to lower the US trade deficit, and China quickly retaliated with an increase in tariffs on US goods.

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The American says he is taking a hard line on trade to protect United States workers and USA companies, but critics say his approach is upending the rules of multilateral global trade.

The Japan-EU statement is meant to confirm their stance of warning against such hardline policies of the Trump administration and mutually cooperating to firmly maintain the free trade regime. The European bloc is also pursuing deals with Mexico, Australia, and Mercosur, the South American trading bloc that includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Abe praised the deal with the European Union for helping his "Abenomics" policies, created to wrest the economy out of stagnation despite a shrinking population and cautious spending.

The foreign ministry said that by strengthening ties with the EU, Japan hopes to vitalise mutual direct investment, fight other global trends toward protectionism and enhance the stature of Japanese brands.

The EU said the trade liberalisation will lead to the region's export growth in chemicals, clothing, cosmetics and beer to Japan, leading to job security for Europe. Japan will get cheaper cheese, such as Parmesan, gouda and cheddar, as well as chocolate and biscuits.

The imported wine and cheese could hurt sales by Japanese wineries and dairies, but Japanese consumers have historically coveted such European products.

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