Japan and European Union sign trade agreement amid worries about Trump’s trade war

Japan and the European Union signed a sweeping free trade deal Tuesday saying they were sending a "clear message" against protectionism, as Washington puts up barriers and threatens a trade war.

The leaders promoted the benefits of a free trade deal that is set to eliminate almost all tariffs on products traded between Japan and the EU.

It comes as Trump continues to unsettle allies and provoke rivals with his aggressive "America First" trade policy. We are predictable - both Japan and [the] European Union - predictable and responsible and will come to the defence of a world order based on rules, freedom and transparency and common sense.

The UK will be able to take advantage of the new deal during the Brexit implementation period, now scheduled to end in 2020, but it will then need to negotiate its own trade deal with Japan and with the EU.

The deal now requires ratification by the European Parliament - a move expected in the coming months - and by Japanese legislators. It was previously reported that if the deal does enter into force before Brexit, it could apply automatically to Britain during a post-March 2019 transition period of around two years.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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Juncker said the signatories of the agreement were making "a statement about free and fair trade, we are showing that we are stronger and better off when we work together".

"Both sides have granted concessions to the other (eg Japan on agriculture, and European Union on cars), and come up with a balanced outcome that will give world trade a significant boost at a time of marked uncertainty", he said.

'There is no protection in protectionism, ' he said. About 94 per cent of the tariffs on European exports to Japan will be lifted, rising to 99 per cent in the future.

Japan and the EU account for about a third of global GDP and their trade relationship has room to grow, according to EU officials, who expect the deal to boost the EU economy by 0.8 percent and Japan's by 0.3 percent over the long term. But they will bring Japanese consumers lower prices for European wines, pork, handbags and pharmaceuticals.

Once ratified by parliaments on both sides, the EU-Japan trade deal will eliminate about 99% of tariffs on Japanese goods, including on cars, from the eighth year after the deal is implemented, with tariffs scrapped on auto parts immediately.

The difference is due to exceptions such as rice, a product which is culturally and politically sensitive and has been protected for decades in Japan.

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The major step toward liberalising trade was discussed in talks since 2013 but is striking in the timing of the signing, as China and the U.S. are embroiled in trade conflicts.

The US is proposing 10% tariffs on a 200 billion dollar (£151 billion) list of Chinese goods. Beijing has responded by imposing identical penalties on a similar amount of American imports.

The deal is in stark contrast to the trade messages of the US President. The partnership includes Australia, Mexico, Vietnam and other nations, although the United States has withdrawn.

"Today's signature of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement is a landmark moment for global trade", he said.

Europe's food sector is one of the biggest winners from the deal, which should allow it to capitalize on Japanese demand for high-quality cheese, chocolates, meats and pasta.

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